These Women Did the Math That Put Men on the Moon

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Today I learned...

Women have always been perceived as behind men in terms of recognition and achievements. The "stronger sex" has always enjoyed the spotlight, especially in the field of science and mathematics.

While many people remain unaware, some of the scientists who performed the calculations that successfully put Americans on the moon were women. Women who played critical roles in the aeronautic industry. These unsung heroines all played a part in putting the first humans on the moon. From mathematicians to computer engineers, seamstresses, and secretaries, there are many of them out there - and they deserve to be recognized!

1. Poppy Northcut

Poppy Northcut always knew she would stand out when she entered Mission Control in 1968. She wore miniskirts and had blond hair. Everyone else she worked with was white, clean-cut males. Northcut learned math while on the job. She brought computer logs home to learn more. Then she reverse-engineered the data on those logs. Whenever she found something she couldn't understand, she asked the programmers at NASA.

She was a member of the team that designed Apollo 8's trajectory back to Earth. On that fateful day, she was the only woman in the room when the first manned spacecraft came home successfully.

2. Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson began to work at Langley in 1953. She had many accomplishments. One of those accomplishments was co-authoring a very significant report. It contained trajectory equations for placing a craft into orbit around the Earth. Johnson considered this feat her career's most noble moment. It eventually led to the orbital launch of the historic flight of John Glenn. This was a significant defining moment in the space race between the Soviet Union and the US.

Glenn asked Johnson to perform the task casually. He referred to Johnson as a "human computer." She just had to check the electronic computer's output. We all know how Glenn became a hero. But to him, Johnson played an important role in his mission's success.

3. Jayme Flowers Coplin

Jayme Flowers Coplin was a 21-year-old secretary from Texas. She had the responsibility of making sure that Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong were completely prepared for their mission. She made sure that they were in the proper frame of mind when they made history. Coplin joined NASA straight out of school as the crew secretary of Apollo 11. The position needed a troubleshooter who could do different tasks and work long hours.

Coplin was in charge of writing the travel orders of the astronauts. She also ran interferences for outsiders who wanted access. She went with them during the launches and updated their wives. She told them about significant events and even looked after their kids. Whenever there were any changes on the checklists of the astronauts, she made these changes accurately.

4. Christine Darden

In 2016, there was a film about brilliant black women entitled "Hidden Figures." Christine Darden was one of the featured women. She is a mathematician who worked at Langley as a computress. In 1972, After five years of working, she finally gained the courage to ask her supervisor why the NASA engineers were only men. Initially, she assumed that all men possessed engineering degrees.

Then she discovered that many of them studied mathematics the same way she did. She studied at Virginia State and Hampton University, where she earned a Master's degree in Mathematics. NASA even paid for those men to take one year of graduate classes in engineering. While in college, Darden was actively involved in civil rights sit-ins. She saw her promotion as a question of equal rights and opportunity. She was a computress who served engineers.

Learn Math Online

Hopefully this article has helped convince you that mathematics isn't just a subject reserved for just one gender. Anyone can enjoy math and have a successful career using a mathematics education. Just like all other courses, those that focus on math can be both challenging and enjoyable at the same time. To further your education in math you can take courses both online or in person. If you need math help, check out the collection of math questions on Plainmath. Answer the questions to reinforce your learning while doing research for other subjects. This will make life a lot less stressful and challenging.


It has been 50 years since a man landed on the moon. But men aren't the only ones we should celebrate. We should also remember the roles women had in helping America's space efforts. The indignities they had to put up with and their unheralded roles. Many of these outstanding women were lone pioneers. They fought behind the scenes to build their careers and advance those of other minorities and women at NASA.

About the Author

Kathy Mercado loves writing for students, and her love for academic writing has meant huge success for her in terms of career progression and building a loyal fanbase. She enjoys writing essays and thesis and blogging about her writing experience. Her free time is for going to the beach to watch the sunsets and watch tennis tournaments on tv.

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