Right now I’m sitting in a packed room for the Special Presentation on Hidden Figures. The book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly — which will be coming out as a film this Friday — tells previously untold story about the black women mathematicians who worked for NASA and “helped win the space race,” and this presentation is set to tell us the story of the mathematics and mathematicians behind the book.
Shetterly starts us off with a brief recounting of the women of the book, illuminating their struggles and successes, telling the packed room, “Hidden Figures is a book about people like you who answered the call of the numbers.”
Next we have Ulrica Wilson, co-director of the Edge Program for women, to tell us about the history of Dorothy Hoover, the “other Dorothy” of Hidden Figures. Wilson gives a a quick peek at Hoover’s work in static-pitching derivatives and other computations involving the mathematics of airplane wing shapes.
Following that, Dr. Christine Darden,, who worked at NASA roughly 20 years after the women in Hidden Figures tells us about standing on the shoulders of women before her to achieve so much success at Langley. She talks about working as a computer with the engineers at NASA, sometimes being handed small parts of problems not being shown the big picture. Being familiar with the mathematics of engineering (although blocked out of the Engineering work groups since she was a woman), Darden notes that engineers and mathematicians aren’t that different, except “the theoretical engineer will sometimes make approximations so they can solve the system.” Eventually Darden would be transferred to an engineering section, where she was promoted and totally kicked butt.
Now my final event for tonight is the AWM Reception and Awards Presentation tonight at 9:30 in Imperial Ballroom B, Marquis Level of the Marriot.