NASA announced on June 24 that their headquarters building in Washington, DC, will be named after engineer Mary W. Jackson who, in 1958, became NASA’s first black woman engineer.

Jackson started her NASA career as a human computer in 1951. This was at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in Virginia, which later became NASA in 1958. Human computers were people who calculated mathematics for NASA missions by hand. 

For two years, she worked in the West Area Computing unit before receiving an offer to work in Langley’s Supersonic Pressure Tunnel. Here, she conducted extensive aeronautics research and authored/co-authored many papers. By the end of her career, there were a total of 12 papers written by or with her. Jackson was promoted and became NASA’s first Black woman engineer in 1958.⁣⁣

In 1979, Jackson left engineering to become the program manager for NASA Langley’s Federal Women’s Program. She dedicated the rest of her career to hiring and promoting the next generation of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers who were women. She was awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom in 2019, 14 years after her death and was portrayed by Janelle Monae in Hidden Figures, an Oscar winning film.⁣

Mary W. Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan

NASA’s Administrator, Jim Bridenstine commented, “We know there are many other people of color and diverse backgrounds who have contributed to our success, which is why we’re continuing the conversations started about a year ago with the agency’s Unity Campaign. NASA is dedicated to advancing diversity, and we will continue to take steps to do so.”

One single post can not cover all of what Mary Jackson managed to achieve, both academically and for closing the gap of inequality between both gender and race. Having died at age 83 in 2005, we are all reminded how recently the world has changed for the better and how much further we need to go for true equality and diversity to be achieved.

To learn more, see NASA’s instagram post  at

You can also find out more on wikipedia at   

(⁣images from wikipedia)