A mathematician and aerospace engineer, who was NASA’s first African-American female engineer.
Born as Mary Winston in Hampton, Virginia, graduated high school with high honors and earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physical science from Hampton University.
After college, Jackson taught mathematics, worked as a bookkeeper and a clerk, until at the age of 30, she began working at NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) as a research mathematician, also known as a ‘human computer’.
Before incorporating into NASA, the organization had a segregation policy, and Jackson and her colleagues had to use separate bathrooms and dining facilities.
Three years later, she accepted an offer to work in the Supersonic Pressure Tunnel and took graduate-level courses to become an engineer. Jackson worked as an engineer in several divisions, and after 34 years at NASA, she achieved the most senior title within the engineering department.
Then, she took a demotion so she could serve as the Federal Women’s Program Manager and as the Affirmative Action Program Manager in NASA’s Equal Opportunity Specialist field, where she worked to promote women and other minorities and advance their careers at NASA.
“Sometimes they are not aware of the number of black scientists, and don’t even know of the career opportunities until it is too late”
More Interesting Anecdotes:
- In addition to her career at NASA, Jackson served as a Girl Scout leader for more than 30 years.
- In the movie ‘Hidden Figures’ that follows the ‘human computers department’ at NASA, the actress Janelle Monáe played Jackson’s character.