Dorothy Vaughan—the Go-getter
|Dorothy Vaughan, Lessie Hunter, and Vivian Adair - the "Human Computers." Image via NASA|
“I changed what I could, and what I couldn’t, I endured.”
Dorothy Vaughan was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1910. Her mother passed away when she was only two years old and her father soon remarried. Her stepmother became a driving force for Dorothy’s education, teaching her to read before she entered school, which allowed Dorothy to advance two grades. At age eight, her father moved her family to Morgantown, West Virginia, where she eventually attended the Beechhurst School. Her hard work earned her valedictorian honors and a full scholarship to Wilberforce University, the country’s oldest private African American college. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the
age of 19.
|Dorothy Vaughan. |
Image via the Human Computer Project
Dorothy was responsible for calculating computations for engineers to help them conduct aeronautical experiments in wind tunnels—all to improve space flight accuracy. By 1949, Dorothy had become the first African American supervisor at NACA (even though the official title was not given to her until years later). She was responsible for teaching new concepts to new and existing employees—Katherine Johnson was once assigned to Dorothy’s group prior to her transfer to Langley’s Flight Mechanics Division. This position gave Dorothy visibility and allowed her to advocate for female employees, both African American and white, who deserved promotions or raises.
|Dorothy Vaughan. Image via Daily Press|
Despite her efforts, Dorothy never received another management role before she retired in 1971, but that didn’t stop this go-getter! She consistently advocated for herself and her peers and accepted any challenge that came her way. She was the leader that the West Area Computers and NASA needed to make some of most incredible space adventures in history successful.