83 Thought-provoking Katherine Johnson Quotes To Read Today

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson was born on 26, August 1918 in West Virginia, U.S. The youngest of 4 children, Katherine's mathematical talent was seen from a young age.

She had a strong love for numbers and counted everything. For instance, she could count the number of steps from one place to another or the number of dishes she washed.

She began to defy odds from a young age. Black children were not given public schooling past eighth grade in her hometown.

Her family had to move 193km to enable her to go to high school. So smart was she that she graduated high school at 14 and college at 18 with degrees in Math and French.

She was the first black woman to go to West Virginia University where she was accepted for a graduate math program. She was also one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist.

Her career spanned over 30 years at both NACA and NASA. Katherine excelled at her calculations which were solely manual and very complex. She helped pioneer the use of computers to perform the tasks.

Her mathematical brilliance was critical in helping the success of the first and subsequent NASA missions and trips to space. She worked as a human computer to calculate trajectories, emergency return paths, and launch windows.

Katherine Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Frededom by former president, Barack Obama, in 2015. In 2016, she received the Silver Snoopy Award and a NASA Group Achievement Award.

In 2019, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress. She was also inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2021.

Katherine died on 24, February 2020, aged 101. NASA's administrator called her ‘an American hero whose legacy will never be forgotten'. Here are unforgettable quotes by Katherine Johnson.

Katherine Johnson Quotes

If you’re prepared and the opportunity comes up, it’s your good fortune to have been in the right place at the right time and to have been prepared for the job.

If you’re prepared and the opportunity comes up, it’s your good fortune to have been in the right place at the right time and to have been prepared for the job.

I really appreciated that the chancellor addressed all of those concerns. It's nice to see that administrators can admit they made a mistake and they're really working in the best interest of the university and the students.

I really appreciated that the chancellor addressed all of those concerns. It’s nice to see that administrators can admit they made a mistake and they’re really working in the best interest of the university and the students.

I’ve told my grandchildren, ‘First you learn how to work the problem, and then you can go use the computer.’ I never liked that they could use a computer to find the answer.

I’ve told my grandchildren, ‘First you learn how to work the problem, and then you can go use the computer.’ I never liked that they could use a computer to find the answer.

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I considered my work on the Apollo moon missions to be my greatest contribution to space exploration. There had been little time to worry about the issues common in my era, such as misogyny and racism.

I considered my work on the Apollo moon missions to be my greatest contribution to space exploration. There had been little time to worry about the issues common in my era, such as misogyny and racism.

I was excited at something new, always liked something new, but give credit to everybody who helped. I didn't do anything alone but try to go to the root of the question and succeeded there.

I was excited at something new, always liked something new, but give credit to everybody who helped. I didn’t do anything alone but try to go to the root of the question and succeeded there.

We put in some long hours at times, and I had three children at home. But they were very responsible, and I had family and friends who helped look after them.

We put in some long hours at times, and I had three children at home. But they were very responsible, and I had family and friends who helped look after them.

We wrote our own textbook, because there was no other text about space. I was in at the beginning, I was one of those lucky people.

We wrote our own textbook, because there was no other text about space. I was in at the beginning, I was one of those lucky people.

I had a question every time for what I have been thinking when there is a question why there are girls to mention and ask.

I had a question every time for what I have been thinking when there is a question why there are girls to mention and ask.

I think it’s important that you learn the background of what you’re working on and how to do it, and you’ll get the right answer.

I think it’s important that you learn the background of what you’re working on and how to do it, and you’ll get the right answer.

The main thing I liked what I was doing, I liked work. I liked the stars and stories we were telling, and it was a joy to contribute to the literature work that was going to be coming out. But little did I think it would go this far.

The main thing I liked what I was doing, I liked work. I liked the stars and stories we were telling, and it was a joy to contribute to the literature work that was going to be coming out. But little did I think it would go this far.

When a space program came along I just happened to be working with guys and when they had briefings I asked permission to go, and they said the girls don’t usually go. And I said, well, is there a law? They said no and then my boss said ‘let her go’.

When a space program came along I just happened to be working with guys and when they had briefings I asked permission to go, and they said the girls don’t usually go. And I said, well, is there a law? They said no and then my boss said ‘let her go’.

Sometimes I could see that others in the class did not understand what W.W. Schieffelin Claytor was teaching. So I would ask questions to help them. He’d tell me that I should know the answer, and I finally had to tell him that I did know the answer, but the other students did not. I could tell.

Sometimes I could see that others in the class did not understand what W.W. Schieffelin Claytor was teaching. So I would ask questions to help them. He’d tell me that I should know the answer, and I finally had to tell him that I did know the answer, but the other students did not. I could tell.

We’re really young, so there’s a lot of room for growth. If these girls stay together and work together during the off-season they will grow as a team.

We’re really young, so there’s a lot of room for growth. If these girls stay together and work together during the off-season they will grow as a team.

Even as a professional in an integrated world, I had been the only black woman in enough drawing rooms and boardrooms to have an inkling of the chutzpah it took for an African American woman in a segregated southern workplace to tell her bosses she was sure her calculations would put a man on the Moon.

Even as a professional in an integrated world, I had been the only black woman in enough drawing rooms and boardrooms to have an inkling of the chutzpah it took for an African American woman in a segregated southern workplace to tell her bosses she was sure her calculations would put a man on the Moon.

From time to time I’ve spoken to school groups about my work at NASA. I’ve also been active in my church and my sorority [Alpha Kappa Alpha]. I like to play bridge and other games that involve math.

From time to time I’ve spoken to school groups about my work at NASA. I’ve also been active in my church and my sorority [Alpha Kappa Alpha]. I like to play bridge and other games that involve math.

I’ve spent a lot of time tutoring kids in math as a volunteer. I’ve always enjoyed helping people understand what they can find in math. There’s no judgment there.

I’ve spent a lot of time tutoring kids in math as a volunteer. I’ve always enjoyed helping people understand what they can find in math. There’s no judgment there.

I skipped though grades to graduate from high school at 14, from college at 18. While I skipped grades in school, my parents made sure I stayed grounded.

I skipped though grades to graduate from high school at 14, from college at 18. While I skipped grades in school, my parents made sure I stayed grounded.

All of the work I did was as part of a team. One of my greatest joys was rolling up my sleeves and working side by side with other brilliant people. It’s a sign of my belief in my own gifts that I’m the first to call attention to the work of others.

All of the work I did was as part of a team. One of my greatest joys was rolling up my sleeves and working side by side with other brilliant people. It’s a sign of my belief in my own gifts that I’m the first to call attention to the work of others.

Girls, some of them are reluctant to ask questions. But if you want to know, you ask the question. There’s no such thing as a dumb question. It’s dumb if you don’t ask it.

Girls, some of them are reluctant to ask questions. But if you want to know, you ask the question. There’s no such thing as a dumb question. It’s dumb if you don’t ask it.

I finished the report and my name went on it, and that was the first time a woman in our division had her name on something.

I finished the report and my name went on it, and that was the first time a woman in our division had her name on something.

It's not every day you wake up with a mission in your mind, but I had a mission and I was determined to accomplish it.

It’s not every day you wake up with a mission in your mind, but I had a mission and I was determined to accomplish it.

I always knew how many of everything there were. Things were there and could be counted and accounted for, and so that's what I did.

I always knew how many of everything there were. Things were there and could be counted and accounted for, and so that’s what I did.

It’s just there. You can’t do anything without it. It’s in everything. I like to work problems. If you do your best, nobody can ask you to do it over again. I never had to repeat what I did.

It’s just there. You can’t do anything without it. It’s in everything. I like to work problems. If you do your best, nobody can ask you to do it over again. I never had to repeat what I did.

They needed information and I had it, and it didn’t matter that I found it. At the time, it was just a question and an answer.

They needed information and I had it, and it didn’t matter that I found it. At the time, it was just a question and an answer.

I believed I was where I was supposed to be of my career in the space program. When I was a student, my mentor told me I’d make a good research mathematician. I said, ‘What is that?’ and he told me I’d have to find out for myself. At NASA, I happened to be at the right place at the right time. When you put bright people in a room and they had something to do, they worked on it until they got it done. But honestly, it was never work to me.

I believed I was where I was supposed to be of my career in the space program. When I was a student, my mentor told me I’d make a good research mathematician. I said, ‘What is that?’ and he told me I’d have to find out for myself. At NASA, I happened to be at the right place at the right time. When you put bright people in a room and they had something to do, they worked on it until they got it done. But honestly, it was never work to me.

Follow your passion. Whatever you’re doing, do your best at all times and make it as correct as possible. Work as if someone is watching you. Then you’ll be prepared when an opportunity presents itself. And you’ll have the answers.

Follow your passion. Whatever you’re doing, do your best at all times and make it as correct as possible. Work as if someone is watching you. Then you’ll be prepared when an opportunity presents itself. And you’ll have the answers.

All jobs are important to somebody. They had to be important to somebody. My theory is, do the best you can all the time. No fooling around.

All jobs are important to somebody. They had to be important to somebody. My theory is, do the best you can all the time. No fooling around.

I entered college; I was 15. I was going to be a math teacher because that was it. You could be a math teacher or a nurse, but I was told I would make a good research mathematician and they had me take all of the courses in the catalog.

I entered college; I was 15. I was going to be a math teacher because that was it. You could be a math teacher or a nurse, but I was told I would make a good research mathematician and they had me take all of the courses in the catalog.

Take all the courses in your curriculum. Do the research. Ask questions. Find someone doing what you are interested in! Be curious!

Take all the courses in your curriculum. Do the research. Ask questions. Find someone doing what you are interested in! Be curious!

Go see 'Hidden Figures,' and take a young person! It will give a more positive outlook on what is possible if you work hard, do your best, and are prepared.

Go see ‘Hidden Figures,’ and take a young person! It will give a more positive outlook on what is possible if you work hard, do your best, and are prepared.

I found what I was looking for at Langley. This was what a research mathematician did. I went to work every day for 33 years happy. Never did I get up and say I don't want to go to work.

I found what I was looking for at Langley. This was what a research mathematician did. I went to work every day for 33 years happy. Never did I get up and say I don’t want to go to work.

Let me do it. You tell me when you want it and where you want it to land, and I’ll do it backwards and tell you when to take off.

Let me do it. You tell me when you want it and where you want it to land, and I’ll do it backwards and tell you when to take off.

Everything was so new – the whole idea of going into space was new and daring. There were no textbooks, so we had to write them.

Everything was so new – the whole idea of going into space was new and daring. There were no textbooks, so we had to write them.

The women did what they were told to do. They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.

The women did what they were told to do. They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.

I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed … anything that could be counted, I did.

I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed … anything that could be counted, I did.

We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be.

We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be.

We will always have STEM with us. Some things will drop out of the public eye and will go away, but there will always be science, engineering, and technology. And there will always, always be mathematics.

We will always have STEM with us. Some things will drop out of the public eye and will go away, but there will always be science, engineering, and technology. And there will always, always be mathematics.

About the contents of this page

Amra conducted research on the quotes with the assistance of Annabele.

Maggie organized the quotes into topics.

Charity wrote the introduction copy.

Schenley designed exclusive images for the quotes.

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