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Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the…

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women…

by Margot Lee Shetterly

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Loved it. ( )
  HarlotRusse | Jun 20, 2017 |
This is a good book. It just has some flaws which keep it from being great. The narrative does not always proceed in a straight line and jumps between characters. Part of the author's job is to keep these transitions from being confusing, which the author fails to do in this case. The author also speculates as to the motivation of characters, which given the racism of the day was most likely true but should not be presented as fact. My personal preference would have been for the author to go into more detail about the scientific work being accomplished by these women and less into the already well known and well explored reality of the times. The title's main strength is the fascinating story of these interesting and accomplished which make the title worth reading. ( )
  mlorio | Jun 17, 2017 |
This book tells the story of African American women who were employed by Langley during World War II (WWII) and afterward. Starting out in aeronautics and moving on to outer space, these women helped with the calculations and other projects that eventually resulted in the moon landing.

It was a bit odd to hear people referred to as computers. To me, a computer is a machine, and I hadn't realized that the term was originally a job title. I found the stories in this book inspirational. ( )
  JenniferRobb | Jun 9, 2017 |
A very thorough look at an under-appreciated group of people who helped the war effort and then the space effort. These women are my heroes - partly because they were women in a male-dominated world, and partly because they were African-American professionals in a field that was not yet officially integrated. So they were fighting more than the math of orbital mechanics, they were also reacting to discrimination because they were black and women.

The movie is excellent, and I enjoyed it more than the book, because it followed three women's stories. This book introduces more women, which is wonderful. But it reads less like a story than a history. Both perspectives are valuable, and I think the movie beautifully complements the book, and vice versa. Highly recommended. ( )
  EowynA | May 28, 2017 |
3.5 Stars really. The beginning of the book did not catch my interest, so it was slow going at first. However, at some point I found myself really invested in the careers and lives of these amazing women. It is an informative & fascinating book that shares a part of American history that has been omitted from our collective consciousness for far to long. I wish I would have learned about them in school, but our education in this country has once again proven to be lacking & whitewashed ( )
  Derby_Lane | May 24, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
Ms. Shetterly happened upon the idea for the book six years ago, when she and her husband, Aran Shetterly, then living in Mexico, were visiting her parents here. The couple and Ms. Shetterly’s father were driving around in his minivan when he mentioned, very casually, that one of Ms. Shetterly’s former Sunday school teachers had worked as a mathematician at NASA, and that another woman she knew calculated rocket trajectories for famous astronauts.

Ms. Shetterly remembers her husband perking up and asking why he had never heard this tale before. “I knew women who worked at NASA as mathematicians and engineers,” Ms. Shetterly said, “but it took someone from the outside saying, ‘Wait a minute’ for me to see the story there.”

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Margot Lee Shetterlyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lyons, ElsieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Meara, JoyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my parents, Margaret G. Lee and Robert B. Lee III, and to all of the women at the NACA and NASA who offered their shoulders to stand on.
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"Mrs. Land worked as a computer out at Langley," my father said, taking a right turn out of the parking lot of First Baptist Church in Hampton, Virginia.
The astronauts, by background and by nature, resisted the computers and their ghostly intellects. In a test flight, a pilot staked his reputation and his life on his ability to exercise total, direct, and constant control over the plane. A tiny error of judgment or a spec of delay in deciding on a course of action might mean the difference between safety and calamity. In a plane, at least, it was the pilot’s call; the “fly-by-wire” setup of the Mercury missions, here the craft and its controls were tethered via radio communications to the whirring electronic computers on the ground, pushed the hands-on astronauts out of their comfort zone. Every engineer and mathematician has a story of double-checking the machines’ data only to find errors. What if the computer lost power or seized up and stopped working during the flight? That too was something that happened often enough to give the entire team pause. The human computers crunching all of those numbers – now that the astronauts understood. The women mathematicians dominated there mechanical planes. The numbers went into the machines one at a time, came out one at a time, and were stored on a piece of paper for anyone to see. Most importantly, the figures flowed in and out of the mind of a real person, someone who could be reasoned with, questioned, challenged, looked in the eye if necessary. The process of arriving at a final result was tried and true, and completely transparent. Spaceship-flying computers might be the future, but it didn’t mean John Glenn had to trust them. He did, however, trust the brainy fellas who controlled the computers. And the brainy fellas who controlled the computers trusted their computer, Katherine Johnson. It was as simple as eighth-grade math: by the transitive property of equality, therefore John Glenn trusted Katherine Johnson. The message got through to John Mayer or Ted Skopinski, who relayed it to Al Hamer or Alton Mayo, who delivered it to the person it was intended for. Get the girl to check the numbers,” said the astronaut. If she says the numbers are good, he told them, I’m ready to go.
The results were what mattered, she told classrooms of students. Math was either right or wrong, and if you got it right, it didn’t matter what color you were.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006236359X, Hardcover)

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.


(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 24 May 2016 18:06:49 -0400)

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