Mary W. Jackson, NACA/NASA Mathematician and Engineer #EnhancedByEngineering @INWED1919 #INWED24

Today we celebrate Mary W. Jackson, NACA/NASA Mathematician and Engineer!

Here’s more from NASA:

Mary’s own path to an engineering career at the NASA Langley Research Center was far from direct. A native of Hampton, Virginia, she graduated from Hampton Institute in 1942 with a dual degree in Math and Physical Sciences, and accepted a job as a math teacher at a black school in Calvert County, Maryland. Hampton had become one of the nerve centers of the World War II home front effort, and after a year of teaching, Mary returned home, finding a position as the receptionist at the King Street USO Club, which served the city’s black population. It would take three more career changes—a post as a bookkeeper in Hampton Institute’s Health Department, a stint at home following the birth of her son, Levi, and a job as an Army secretary at Fort Monroe—before Mary landed at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory’s segregated West Area Computing section in 1951, reporting to the group’s supervisor Dorothy Vaughan.

After two years in the computing pool, Mary received an offer to work for engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki in the 4-foot by 4-foot Supersonic Pressure Tunnel, a 60,000 horsepower wind tunnel capable of blasting models with winds approaching twice the speed of sound. Czarnecki offered Mary hands-on experience conducting experiments in the facility, and eventually suggested that she enter a training program that would allow her to earn a promotion from mathematician to engineer. Trainees had to take graduate level math and physics in after-work courses managed by the University of Virginia. Because the classes were held at then-segregated Hampton High School, however, Mary needed special permission from the City of Hampton to join her white peers in the classroom. Never one to flinch in the face of a challenge, Mary completed the courses, earned the promotion, and in 1958 became NASA’s first black female engineer. That same year, she co-authored her first report, Effects of Nose Angle and Mach Number on Transition on Cones at Supersonic Speeds.

 


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