By Natalie Schreyer
One West Virginia woman’s story will be told in two upcoming films. But this is no ordinary West Virginian.
Katherine Johnson, a 98-year-old native of White Sulphur Springs, was hired as a mathematician for the original version of NASA in 1953, calculating the trajectories for astronauts journeying into space.
Diana Sole Walko interviewed Johnson for a film about her life produced by MotionMasters that she hopes to release in 2017, in the wake of the premiere of another major movie about Johnson and two of her colleagues that comes out on Christmas Day. Her film is aptly titled “Outlier.”
The project originally began as a multi-part documentary series on West Virginia history, but when funding stalled, she realized that one interview from her footage was worthy of its own biographical documentary: Johnson’s.
The Gazette-Mail named Johnson as its West Virginian of the Year for 2015.
Known as a “computer” in an era before modern computing technology, Johnson and her precise calculations helped with the journey into space. Although NASA eventually started using computers, John Glenn still requested that she manually confirm the calculations done by the electronic computer before he would go on to orbit Earth.