WASHINGTON, D.C. — NASA announced Wednesday that it is naming its Washington, D.C. headquarters after mathematician and aerospace engineer Mary W. Jackson, the agency’s first Black female engineer.
“Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space. Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement announcing the honorarium.
Jackson, who was featured in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” was recruited in 1951 to work for NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, in the segregated West Area Computing Unit in Hampton, Virginia. While working under fellow “Hidden Figure” Dorothy Vaughan, she became known as one of the research center’s human computers, CBS News reported.
By 1958, Jackson earned her promotion from mathematician to engineer after obtaining special permission to join her white colleagues in a training program, the agency said. She then played an integral role in the hiring and promotion of the next generation of women in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, at NASA.
Jackson retired in 1985 and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2019, along with her “Hidden Figures” colleagues Vaughan, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, CBS News reported.
Appropriately, the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building sits on Hidden Figures Way, which Bridenstine called a “reminder that Mary is one of many incredible and talented professionals in NASA’s history who contributed to this agency’s success. Hidden no more, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans and people of all backgrounds who have helped construct NASA’s successful history to explore.”
In a statement issued by Jackson’s daughter, Carolyn Lewis, applauded NASA’s honoring of her mother’s legacy.
“She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother and trailblazer, who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA, but throughout this nation,” Lewis said.
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