Herstory Thursday: Dorothy Vaughan
Continuing with our theme this month of talking about the leading ladies of the new movie Hidden Figures, this week we are talking about Dorothy Vaughan, Mathematician.
Born in Missouri in 1910, Dorothy Vaughan and her family moved to West Virginia where she graduated from high school at the age of 15 and then college with a B.A in Mathematics from Wilberforce University in 1929. She spent married Howard Vaughan in 1932 and the couple had four children together. During the Great Depression she worked as a high school math teacher until 1943 when she took up a war job at NACA.
Dorothy was assigned to the West Area Computing research lab at NACA, which was a segregated area of the Langley Research Center for black female mathematicians during the heavy prevalence of Jim Crow laws. In 1949 Dorothy became the first black supervisor and manage at NACA, taking over the West Area Computing section from previous white supervisors.
Dorothy was known for her hard work, her recommendations of the best people to work on projects, and her advocacy for the girls in the West Area Computing section at NACA. In 1958, NACA became NASA and the West Area Computing area and segregation was abolished. Dorothy and the other women who were in the section all transitioned to the Analysis and Computing Division. Dorothy retired from NASA in 1971, after a long and distinguished career.
Dorothy Vaughan died in 2008 at the age of 98.