Katherine Johnson, the pioneering NASA mathematician and computer scientist whose work was integral to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, will release an autobiography for young readers next year.
The 100-year-old Johnson, who was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the hit 2016 movie “Hidden Figures,” will tell her life story in “Reaching for the Moon,” a book for middle-grade readers, publisher Atheneum Books for Young Readers announced in a news release.
Johnson, a West Virginia native, was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA, in 1953. She worked as a “human computer,” or a mathematician who could perform complicated calculations manually.
Her work was instrumental to some of NASA’s most important missions, including the flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and the Apollo 11 and 13 missions to the moon. Johnson was one of several African American mathematicians to work for NASA, which at the time was racially segregated. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 by Barack Obama.
In the news release, Johnson said she “never worried about what people thought of me or what they believed my limitations were because of my color or my gender.”
“I want young people to feel the same way when reading my story,” she said in the release. “I want them to see that it doesn’t matter where you came from, what you look like or what your gender is. You’re no better or worse than anyone out there and there’s nothing you can’t do as long as you put your mind to it. You can be a doctor or a lawyer or even help put a person on the moon.”
Johnson was one of the subjects of Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 nonfiction book, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race,” which was adapted into a film starring Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe. The movie received three Oscar nominations, including one for best picture.
Justin Chanda, the publisher of Atheneum Books for Young Readers, said he was “thrilled” to be publishing Johnson’s autobiography.
“Katherine Johnson’s life is a testament to the limitless potential of a smart mind and a strong spirit,” he said in the release. “Hers is a story of determination, empowerment, and triumph.”
“Reaching for the Moon” will be published in the fall of 2019.