The #1 New York Times Bestseller
SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program.
Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘colored computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.
Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women’s rights movement, ‘Hidden Figures’ interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of four courageous women whose work forever changed the world.
A TIME Magazine Top 10 Nonfiction Book of 2016
‘Clearly fuelled by pride and admiration, a tender account of genuine transcendence and camaraderie. The story warmly conveys the dignity and refinements of these women’ New York Times Book Review
‘Much as Tom Wolfe did in ‘The Right Stuff’, Shetterly moves gracefully between the women’s lives and the broader sweep of history … Shetterly blends impressive research with an enormous amount of heart in telling these stories … Genuinely inspiring book’ Boston Globe
‘A fascinating and important document about the hitherto unknown impact of NASA’s endeavours’ BBC Sky at Night magazine
‘Shetterly’s highly recommended work offers up a crucial history that had previously and unforgivably been lost. We’d do well to put this book into the hands of young women who have long since been told that there’s no room for them at the scientific table’ Library Journal
‘Inspiring and enlightening’ Kirkus
‘Exploring the intimate relationships among blackness, womanhood, and 20th-century American technological development, Shetterly crafts a narrative that is crucial to understanding subsequent movements for civil rights’ Publishers Weekly
‘This an is incredibly powerful and complex story, and Shetterly has it down cold. The breadth of her well-documented research is immense, and her narrative compels on every level. The timing of this revelatory book could not be better, and book clubs will adore it’ Booklist
‘Meticulous … the depth and detail that are the book’s strength make it an effective, fact-based rudder with which would-be scientists and their allies can stabilise their flights of fancy’ Seattle Times
About the author
The daughter of a NASA engineer, Margot Lee Shetterly is an independent scholar and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation award recipient, currently at work on The Human Computer Project, a digital archive of the stories of NASA’s female Human Computers. She is one of the founders of Inside Mexico Magazine, an English-language magazine for Mexico’s expat population, and in her former lives worked as an Internet executive and an investment banker. She splits her time between Hampton, Virginia and Valle de Bravo, Mexico.
Shetterly, founder of the Human Computer Project, passionately brings to light the important and little-known story of the black women mathematicians hired to work as computers at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Va., part of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NASA's precursor). The first women NACA brought on took advantage of a WWII opportunity to work in a segregated section of Langley, doing the calculations necessary to support the projects of white male engineers. Shetterly writes of these women as core contributors to American success in the midst of a cultural "collision between race, gender, science, and war," teasing out how the personal and professional are intimately related. She celebrates the skills of mathematicians such as Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Hoover, whose brilliant work eventually earned them slow advancement but never equal footing. Shetterly collects much of her material directly from those who were there, using personal anecdotes to illuminate the larger forces at play. Exploring the intimate relationships among blackness, womanhood, and 20th-century American technological development, Shetterly crafts a narrative that is crucial to understanding subsequent movements for civil rights. A star-studded feature film based on Shetterly's book is due out in late 2016.