The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.
Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.
Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.
Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.
Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.
Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women in her book Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
When Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder of the lunar module, Eagle, he famously spoke of “one small step for man.” But Armstrong would not have reached the moon without the help of women. Today, females across the earth and above it—astronauts and mathematicians, engineers and physicists, test pilots and aerospace psychophysiologists—are pushing the boundaries of human knowledge, helping us to understand the universe and our place in it. Galaxy Girls celebrates more than four dozen extraordinary women from around the globe whose contributions have been fundamental to the story of humankind’s quest to reach the stars.
From Ada Lovelace in the nineteenth century to the “colored computers” behind the Apollo missions, from the astronauts breaking records on the International Space Station to the scientific pioneers blazing the way to Mars, Galaxy Girls goes boldly where few books have gone before, celebrating this band of heroic sisters and their remarkable and often little known scientific achievements. Written by Libby Jackson, a leading British expert in human space flight, and illustrated with striking artwork from the students of London College of Communication, Galaxy Girls will fire the imaginations of trailblazers of all ages.
Hidden Figures has already been adopted as a common book on campuses across the country, and it has been assigned as required reading in high school and college courses on a variety of subjects—from history, math, and science to composition and women’s studies.