According to history, women were perhaps the 1st mathematicians in the world. In contemporary society, most people have the perception that demanding courses such as Mathematics are for men. However, some women are gradually changing this perception. Today, we will look at one of the greatest female mathematician and engineer. Her name is Mary Jackson. Mathematician Mary Jackson was one of a small group of black American females or women who worked as aeronautical engineers. Mary Jackson was known as a human-computer at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) during the Space Age.
More About Mary Jackson
Mary Jackson was an African-American aerospace engineer and mathematician at the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) succeeded in 1958. Mary Jackson worked at Langley Research Center in Hampton (Virginia) for most of her career. Mary Jackson started as a computer, a person who performs mathematical calculations before electronic computers were commercially available, at the segregated West Area Computing Division way back in 1951. Mary Jackson took advanced engineering classes, and later in 1958, she became National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s 1st black woman or female engineer.
After more than three decades, 34 years, at NASA, Mary Jackson had achieved or earned the most senior engineering title available. Mary Jackson realized she could not achieve further promotions without becoming a supervisor. Jackson accepted a demotion to become a manager of the Federal Women’s Program in the NASA Office of Equal Opportunity Programs and the Affirmative Action Program. In this role, Mary Jackson worked to control or influence women’s promotion and hiring in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s engineering, science and mathematics careers.
Mary Jackson’s story features in the 2016 non-fiction book ‘Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race.’ She is one of the three characters or protagonists in ‘Hidden Figures,’ the film adaptation launched at the same time. In 2019, people posthumously awarded Mary Jackson the Congressional Gold Medal. On June 24th, 2020, Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s Administrator, announced that the Washington D.C. HQS of NASA would be known as the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters.
About the Hidden Figures Book and Film
‘Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race’ is a 2016 non-fiction book that Margot Lee Shetterly wrote. Margot Lee Shetterly began working on the book in 2010. From the 1930s to the 1960s, the work takes place when some people viewed women as inferior to men. The biographical text follows the lives of Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Katherine Johnson, who were all mathematicians who worked as computers at NASA during the Space Race. They overcame discrimination there as women and as black Americans.
People adapted the book as a film of the same name as ‘Hidden Figures,’ which Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder wrote and Melfi acted as its director. They released it on December 25th, 2016, to positive reviews from critics and got a Best Picture nomination at the 89th Academy Awards. Taraji Henson starred as mathematician Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer played Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monae played Mary Jackson.
The Personal Life of Mary Jackson
Mary Winston Jackson was born on April 9th, 1921. She was born to Ella Winston and Frank Winston. Mary Winston Jackson grew up in Hampton (Virginia), where she graduated from the all-black George Phenix Training School with the highest honors. Mary Jackson achieved bachelor’s degrees in physical science and mathematics from Hampton University in the mid-20th century (1942). Mary Jackson was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha. Winston Jackson served more than three decades or 30 years as a Girl Scout leader. In the 1970s, people in the community noted Winston Jackson for helping black American kids in her society create a miniature wind tunnel for testing airplanes.
Mary Winston Jackson was married on November 18th, 1944, to Levi Jackson Sr, a sailor in the United States Navy. Mary Jackson had more than one child. They were Carolyn Marie Lewis, and Levi Jackson Jr. Mary Jackson lost her life on February 11th, 2005, at 83 years.
The Career Life of Mary Jackson
After her graduation, Mary Jackson taught mathematics for a whole year at a black American learning institution in Calvert County, Maryland. At that period, the school authorities segregated the public learning institutions across the South. Mary Jackson also started tutoring high school students and college students, which she continued to do throughout her entire life. In 1943, Mary Jackson returned to Hampton, where she became a book-keeper at the National Catholic Community Centre. Mary Jackson worked as a clerk and a receptionist at the Hampton Institute’s Health Department. Mary Winston Jackson was pregnant during this period and eventually returned home for the birth of her child. In 1951, Mary Jackson became a clerk at the Office of the Chief Army Field Forces at Fort Monroe.
Mary Jackson began as a research mathematician or a computer at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, her hometown. Mary Jackson worked under Dorothy Vaughan in the isolated West Area Computing Section. In 1953, Mary Jackson accepted an offer to work for Kazimierz Czarnecki, an engineer, in the Supersonic Pressure Tunnel. It is a 1.2 by 1.2 m (4 by 4 foot), 45000kW (60000 horsepower) wind tunnel used to research or study forces on a model by generating winds at almost two times or twice the sound speed. Kazimierz Czarnecki encouraged Mary Jackson to go through training to have an engineering status through promotion. Mary Jackson needed to take graduate-level courses in physics and mathematics to qualify for the job. The University of Virginia offered them in a night program, held at the all-white Hampton High School. Mary Jackson petitioned the City of Hampton to permit her to attend the classes.
After finishing the courses, Mary Jackson became an aerospace engineer in 1958 and became National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s 1st black woman engineer. Mary Jackson analyzed data from the wind tunnel trials or experiments and real-world aircraft flight trials at the Theoretical Aerodynamics Branch of the Subsonic-Transonic Aerodynamics Division at Langley Research Center. Her main goal was to understand airflow, including drag and thrust forces, to enhance or improve United States planes.
Mary Jackson worked as an engineer in several NASA divisions. These are the Compressibility Research Division, High-Speed Aerodynamics Division, Full-Scale Research Division, and the Subsonic-Transonic Aerodynamics Division. She ultimately co-authored or authored more than ten technical papers for National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Mary Jackson worked to help women and other minorities to advance their careers. Including advising them on how to study to qualify for better promotions.
After going through training at NASA HQS, Mary Jackson returned to Langley. She worked to make transformations or changes and highlight women and other minorities who were qualified in the field. Mary Jackson continued to work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration until her resignation in 1985.
The Legacy of Mary Jackson
In 2018, the Salt Lake City School Board voted that the board would officially name Jackson Elementary School in Salt Lake City after Mary Winston Jackson rather than after President Andrew Jackson. On November 6th, 2020, engineers launched a satellite named after her, Nusat 17 or Mary, COSPAR 2020-079J, into space.
The Awards and Honors of Mary Jackson
Mary Jackson got some of the awards and honors were Apollo Group Achievement Award in 1969, Daniels Alumni Award for Outstanding Service to Disadvantaged Youth, and Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Service to the Community. In 1972, she received the Distinguished Service Award for her work with the Combined Federal Campaign symbolizing Humanitarian Agencies. In 1975, Mary Jackson got the Langley Research Center Outstanding Volunteer Award, 1976-Langley Research Center Volunteer of the Year, Iota Lambda Sorority Award for the Peninsula Outstanding Woman Scientist, National Technical Association’s Tribute Award, and Langley Research Center Certificate of Appreciation.
Mary Jackson never stopped there. She went for the King Street Community Center Outstanding Award and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Brief Description of the Congressional Gold Medal
The Congressional Gold Medal is an award that the United States Congress bestows. The congressional act or practice of issuing gold medals to honor recipients from the military began during the American Revolution.
The practice extended to individuals such as Mary Jackson and groups. The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian awards in the U.S. The congressional medal seeks to honor those who have gotten an achievement that impacts American culture and history that people acknowledge as a major achievement in the recipient’s field. As of April 4th, 2019, only 163 people, institutions, and events have gotten the Congressional Gold Medal.
From the Congressional Medal description, it seems that only a few people were able to receive it. Mary Jackson getting the award puts her on top of the game. Her efforts to help other people advance in their careers created an impact in those people’s lives. Hence, she deserved the Congressional Medal.