Katherine Johnson, subject of ‘Hidden Figures,’ delivers commencement at Hampton University

Katherine Johnson, one of the inspirations behind the novel and film “Hidden Figures,” served as Hampton University’s commencement speaker Sunday.

Johnson was also presented an honorary PhD.

The 98-year-old former NASA mathematician calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Johnson also confirmed, by hand, the launch calculations for John Glenn, the first American to circle the globe in 1962.

“It was a piece of cake,” said Johnson, joking about her legendary math skills during her time at NASA in Hampton.

Based on the book “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly, the movie also shines a light on the groundbreaking work of Hampton native Mary Jackson, a NASA engineer.  Recording artist Janelle Monae portrays her in the film.

Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer plays mathematician Dorothy Vaughan in the box office smash.

Of the three women featured in the film, Johnson is the only one alive to see their time at NASA play out on the silver screen.

Click here to watch our interview with Johnson.

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