Black History Month art series by artist Adam Hernandez: Day 12 Dorothy Johnson Vaughan

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan

Day 12

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan (September 20, 1910 – November 10, 2008) was an African American mathematician who worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and NASA, at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. In 1949, she became acting supervisor of the West Area Computers, the first African-American woman to supervise a staff at the center. She later was promoted officially to this position. During her 28-year career, Vaughan prepared for the introduction of machine computers in the early 1960s by teaching herself and her staff the programming language of FORTRAN; she later headed the programming section of the Analysis and Computation Division (ACD) at Langley. Vaughan is one of the women featured in Margot Lee Shetterly’s history Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race (2016). It was adapted as a biographical film of the same name, also released in 2016. She contributed to the space program through her work on the Scout Launch Vehicle Program. Vaughan also worked for opportunities for the women in West Computing as well as women in other departments. Regarding being an African-American woman during that time, she remarked, “I changed what I could, and what I couldn’t, I endured.”

Adam Hernandez | Black History Art Series