What do a queen and mathematician have in common, besides sharing the same first name? I was delighted to discover the serendipity of their accomplishments after listening to an audio book and watching a movie.
When Katherine Parr entered the court of King Henry VIII as his sixth wife, no one really knew the extent of her education, although there is no doubt that she possessed some knowledge of Latin. During her marriage to the King, Katherine studied Latin, Greek, and theology and translated Psalms and Prayers into English, although she did not receive credit for the work. However, in 1544 she became the first Englishwoman to print her name on the title page as author for her next two books. Her works are still in print today—and the originals are on view in Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. (From the book The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory.)
Fast forward to 1960 when Katherine G. Johnson, an employee of NASA, formulated a complex equation to ensure the Mercury 7 space capsule would safely re-enter the earth’s atmosphere. As a Black woman, she was not allowed to take credit as co-author for her research in the space program. Due to her persistence and the high quality of her work, she eventually became the first woman to put her name on a Flight Research Center Report because of her valuable contribution in solving the trajectory path of the space capsule so it would safely return to earth. John Glenn personally asked for Ms. Johnson to check the calculations before his first flight into space. (From the movie Hidden Figures.)
Photo from National Portrait Gallery, Great Britain