Saturday, September 23, 2023

‘Hidden Figures’ author receives Distinguished Citizen Medal

(HNNDaily Photo/courtesy of the city of Hampton)
(HNNDaily photo/Courtesy of the City of Hampton)

Hampton native Margot Lee Shetterly, author of “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race,” was recently presented with the Distinguished Citizen Medal.

Hampton City Council presented Shetterly with the award, which can be described as a key to the city, for the attention she drew to the important chapter of the city’s history described in her book.

Shetterly’s book tells the story of the black women who played significant roles in Americans getting into orbit and to the moon. These women worked as human computers for NASA (and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), crunching numbers long before the computer was invented, according to a news release from the city.

The book and subsequent film drew attention to the story of Hampton’s NASA Langley Research Center and groundbreaking contributions by many local residents.

In order to honor and name the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers at NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s, Shetterly founded The Human Computer Project.

She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, the recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing, and the 2018 recipient of the Space Foundation’s Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award.

Shetterly is a graduate of Phoebus High School and the University of Virginia.

She currently lives in Charlottesville.

Shetterly was unavailable for comment.

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