With a B.A. in Mathematics earned in 1929, Dorothy was hired by NASA (then NACA) in 1943, during the height of World War 2. Her temporary position was made permanent when she was assigned to the “West Area Computing” unit, a segregated group of black female mathematicians. After being promoted in 1949 to lead the group (previously led by white section heads) she became the first black supervisor for NACA, and one of the few female supervisors, period. Later, after the transition from NACA to NASA, she became well-versed in FORTRAN, the programming language of the new mechanical computers being used on NASA’s campus, and used that knowledge to join the Analysis and Computation Division, specializing in electronic computing (and she brought with her many of the other members of her old West Area Computing group). She passed away in November of 2008.
Legacy: Dorothy Vaughan’s story, as well as the stories of Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson (also included in this collection!) were immortalized in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.