The Hidden "Human Computers" Of NASA

Sep 9, 2016

The images of the control rooms in the early days of American space flight--in real life and in the movies--are images of lots of white men. 

"Human computers" Dorothy Vaughan, Leslie Hunter, and Vivian Adair at NACA, NASA's predecessor.
Credit NASA/Public Domain

But it took more than the people in those images to put people on the moon for the first time.  Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures introduces us to people very much behind the scenes yet very important to success in the space race: African-American women who functioned as something like human computers. 

The book is also a movie in the making, due in January.

Shetterly herself is the daughter of one of NASA's first black engineers, who worked for a still-segregated agency in the civil rights era. 

The author visits with book highlights and personal perceptions.