For day 5 of our Black History Month celebration we recognize: Mary Jackson!
Mary Jackson was an African American engineer, human computer, and NASA’s first black female engineer. Her story became widely known with the 2016 film Hidden Figures where Jackson was portrayed by Janelle Monae.
Born in Hampton, VA on April 9, 1921, Jackson shared a love for science and a passion for improving the lives of others.
In 1942, Jackson graduated from Hampton Institute with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics and Physical Science. In 1951 – after serving on the home front effort for World War II, teaching, bookkeeping at Hampton Institute, and working as an Army secretary at Fort Monroe – Jackson began working at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory’s West Area Computing sector, where she was supervised by Dorothy Vaughan.
After spending two years computing, Jackson was promoted to an aeronautical engineer; thus, making Jackson NASA’s first black female engineer. As an aeronautical engineer, Jackson worked with wind tunnels and analyzed data for aircraft flight experiments.
Nearly two decades after working in engineering, Jackson took a position as manager for Langley’s Federal Women’s Program, where she advocated for the next generation of NASA’s female engineers, scientists, and mathematicians.
In 1985, Jackson retired from Langley. Throughout her career, Jackson served on several organizations’ boards, including one of the United Way campaigns, National Technical Association, and Girl Scouts of America, where she worked to improve the lives of others.
On February 11, 2005, Jackson passed away. Her impact and legacy as an advocate for science and service was recognized in the highly acclaimed film Hidden Figures, where she was portrayed by Janelle Monae.
In 2018, the Jackson Elementary School, named in honor of Andrew Jackson, in Salt Lake City, Utah announced that the were renaming their school, Mary W. Jackson, in honor of Jackon’s groundbreaking contributions as a NASA engineer.