Who: Johnson, born in White Sulfur Springs, W.V., began high school when she was just 10 years old, graduating at 14 and going on to finish her B.S. in mathematics and French by the time she was 18 from West Virginia State University.
When: She began working for the then National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) — now NASA — in 1953, well before the modern computer existed. Johnson and the other women hired to measure and calculate wind tunnel test results “had the job title of ‘computer’ [and] during World War II, the NACA expanded this effort to include African-American women.” Eventually, she actually made it possible for Alan Shepard and John Glenn to go to space.
Who: Born in 1910 in Kansas City, Missouri, Vaughan graduated at 19-years-old from Wilberforce University — a college founded in 1865 as “one of the destination points of [the] railroad” when the Ohio Underground Railroad was established.
When: Vaughan began her work in 1943 before eventually being “moved into the area of electronic computing when the first (non-human) computers were introduced at NACA.”
Who: Jackson grew up in Hampton, Va., where she was born in 1921, receiving her Bachelor’s degrees in 1942 in both physical science and mathematics from the Hampton Institute.
When: By 1950, she “began work as research mathematician at NACA’s Langley Memorial Research Center” and was eventually “assigned to work directly with the flight test engineers.”