NASA Honors 'Hidden Figures' Engineer Mary W. Jackson With Renaming of DC Headquarters

In 2019, Mary W. Jackson—a hugely influential mathematician and NASA aerospace engineer—was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

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On Friday, NASA is broadcasting a special ceremony marking the renaming of the agency’s headquarters building in Washington D.C. in honor of the late Mary W. Jackson, whose historic work as a mathematician and aerospace engineer was documented in Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures and the Janelle Monáe-featuring movie of the same name.

Jackson started her career with NASA in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the Langley Research Center in Virginia before going on to lead programs that had far-reaching impacts on the hiring and promotion of women in the agency’s science, tech, engineering, and mathematics careers. In 2019, 14 years after her death at the age of 83, Jackson was posthumously honored with the Congressional Gold Medal.

“We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson,” Carolyn Lewis, Mary’s daughter, said last summer when the renaming tribute was first announced. “She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother, and trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA, but throughout this nation.”

Members of Jackson’s family are joining Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk for the ceremony on Friday. Others confirmed for the special presentation include NASA Langley center director Clayton Turner, retired NASA engineer Christine Darden, artist Tenbeete Solomon (a.k.a. Trap Bob), and Jackson’s granddaughter Wanda Jackson. Additionally, poet Nikki Giovanni is slated to perform an excerpt from “Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea,” a poem about civil rights and space.

Catch the full ceremony, which will also be available via Facebook and Twitter, below on YouTube:

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Hidden Figures, also starring Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer, received a number of Oscar nominations in 2017—including for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Spencer—as well as a pair of Golden Globe nominations. Monáe, who portrayed Jackson in the Theodore Melfi-directed film, won the Hollywood Spotlight Award at the 2016 Hollywood Film Awards.

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