Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly is a history of black women who were mathematicians and engineers in 20th-century aeronautics and space programs. It focuses particularly on black women who served as human computers as they performed calculations at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia during and after World War II.
During the war, the United States was desperate for mathematicians and engineers to work in aeronautics. With many men fighting in the war, women took on professional jobs. A number of black women applied for positions at Langley. Among them was Dorothy Vaughan, who had excelled in mathematics as a young woman and had then gone into teaching. Pay in segregated schools was much less than Vaughan could make as a human computer performing calculations for engineers. So she changed careers....
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