Meet Katherine Johnson, the lady behind the maths that meant space exploration was possible. It was her brilliant mathematics that would enable spaceships to safely fly to and from the moon and when things went badly wrong for Apollo 13 it would be Katherine’s mathematical mind that would save the day. Katherine loved a challenge and nothing was too bigger problem for her, as she always said, “You can count on me."
As a child, Katherine loved to count - steps, the dishes, anything and everything. She was equally passionate about the sky and what was out there. An exceptionally bright student she excelled at school, so much so that she skipped a few years. She then encountered her first big problem and it was one that no amount of counting could solve. At the time that Katherine was due to transition to high school, America was a society divided by race and she found herself unwanted at the all white school. Eventually her family were able to move and she attended a high school to continue her thirst for knowledge. She pursued a career as a teacher before finally getting a job with NACA (which would soon become NASA) as a mathematician. As the space race between the Soviet Union and the USA gathered pace Katherine found herself part of the space project. It would be her calculations that would ensure that a spaceship could travel to and from its destination safely. Man had reached the stars and another star was shining brightly on the ground.
This is a superb biography told through through a narrative about a woman who broke down barriers and proved that women were just as capable as men in a field where women were only given the jobs that "the men thought were boring and unimportant.” Katherine garnered so much trust and respect in her time working for NASA that astronaut John Glenn would only fly if Katherine’s numbers said it was safe to do so.
The book is fully illustrated throughout with bold and colourful illustrations that help depict Katherine’s incredible story. Katherine’s story raises issues about inequality and discrimination and shows what is possible through determination, believing in yourself and never giving up on your dreams.
Katherine’s brilliant mind and maths sent man and machine to the stars, but the true star in all of this is a young lady from White Sulphur Springs, West Virigina.
Recommended for 7+.