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The Student News Site of Robert Frost Middle School

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Dorothy Vaughan

Dorothy+Vaughan

                                                                                            Dorothy Vaughan

          Dorothy Vaughan was born on September 10, 1910, in Kansas City, Missouri. Her parents were Annie and Leonard Johnson. At the age of seven years old, they moved to Morgantown in West Virginia. She went to school here and was her class valedictorian when she graduated from Beechurst High School. She got a full scholarship and graduated with a degree in mathematics. Later in life, she married Howard Vaughan and moved to Newport News, Virginia. They had six children and lived with Howard’s parents and grandparents. When she got a job at NASA, they finally moved to Hampton Virginia.

          While working at NASA, Dorothy was assigned to the West Computing Group with other black women. Since NASA hired women, Dorothy, and her other colleagues had to separate from their white, female counterparts and had to use separate bathrooms and lunch rooms. The West Computing Group performed mathematical calculations and when their white supervisor died, Dorothy became the first black supervisor at NASA. As the technology progressed, she taught herself and her group about computing languages. When the first digital computer came into NASA, Dorothy taught herself FORTRAN and became very intelligent in computer programming. Eventually, when segregated facilities were abolished, Dorothy and other people from her group were moved into the Analysis and Computation Division. Here she worked with the new computer technology and taught others how to use it too.

          Before she retired in 1971, she worked with two other black women, Kathrine Johnson, and Mary Jackson on mathematics for John Glenn’s launch. She died on November 10th, 2008, at 98 years old. When she passed, four of her children were there, including ten of her grandchildren and fourteen of her great-grandchildren. Dorothy Vaughan was able to help integrate the work area and create a lasting legacy for improving diversity in mathematics and science. Even today, people look up to her and are inspired because of her achievements and programming skills.

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