Katherine Johnson, one of the NASA mathematicians portrayed in the Oscar-nominated 2016 film , died Monday, NASA said. She was 101.
Johnson “was an American hero and her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote on Twitter.
“At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her. Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space,” Bridenstine said in a statement.
Johnson was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the Theodore Melfi-directed film, which tracks the untold true story of physicist Johnson, space scientist Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer) and mathematician Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). The pioneering African-American women performed work that was crucial to U.S. success in the space race and most impactfully, in the successful 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, but their story has largely unknown to the country they served. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. You can watch a video of Johnson at the 89th Academy Awards below.
Johnson also was featured on NBC’s Timeless, portrayed by Nadine Ellis.
President Barack Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor for civilians, in 2015. Two years later, NASA dedicated a computational research facility in her honor. Most recently, the space agency renamed a building after her in her home state of West Virginia, a bill signed into law by President Donald Trump in December.
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