Often regarded as a “human computer”, Katherine Johnson is an African-American mathematician who spent 35 years working at NASA. In the Katherine Johnson quotes below, Johnson gives first-hand accounts about her time at NASA, her upbringing, and more.
What have you learned about Katherine Johnson in the past?
Katherine Johnson is the brains behind many of NASA’s earliest space missions. She played an integral role in bringing the first Americans into space with Project Mercury, NASA’s first program bringing humans into space.
In 2016, Johnson was played by Taraji P. Henson in the award-winning movie Hidden Figures, elevating her legacy to a worldwide audience. Johnson was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2019.
Learn more about the incredible life and career of mathematician Katherine Johnson below.
Also check out these Mae Jemison quotes on breaking societal limits.
Katherine Johnson quotes about working at NASA
1. “Everything was so new – the whole idea of going into space was new and daring. There were no textbooks, so we had to write them.” – Katherine Johnson
2. “John Glenn’s life will long be remembered for his time in space, his courage, and his service to all Americans.” – Katherine Johnson
3. “I felt most proud on the success of the Apollo mission.” – Katherine Johnson
4. “I found what I was looking for at Langley. This was what a research mathematician did. I went to work every day for 33 years happy. Never did I get up and say I don’t want to go to work.” – Katherine Johnson
5. “I liked working with smart people.” – Katherine Johnson
6. “The women did what they were told to do. They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.” – Katherine Johnson
7. “There’s nothing to it; I was just doing my job.” – Katherine Johnson
8. “We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be.” – Katherine Johnson
9. “We had to determine so much. Where you were, where the Moon would be and how fast the astronauts were going.” – Katherine Johnson
10. “I was just excited to have challenging work to do and smart people to work with.” – Katherine Johnson
11. “We always worked as a team. It’s never just one person.” – Katherine Johnson
12. “We put in some long hours at times, and I had three children at home. But they were very responsible, and I had family and friends who helped look after them.” – Katherine Johnson
13. “My colleagues and I were committed to the work. We found different ways to deal with the segregation.” – Katherine Johnson
14. “Let me do it. You tell me when you want it and where you want it to land, and I’ll do it backwards and tell you when to take off.” – Katherine Johnson
15. “I believed I was where I was supposed to be.” – Katherine Johnson
16. “They needed information and I had it, and it didn’t matter that I found it. At the time, it was just a question and an answer.” – Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson quotes about mathematics
17. “I like to work problems. If you do your best, nobody can ask you to do it over again. I never had to repeat what I did.” – Katherine Johnson
18. “In math, you’re either right or you’re wrong.” – Katherine Johnson
19. “We will always have STEM with us. Some things will drop out of the public eye and will go away, but there will always be science, engineering, and technology. And there will always, always be mathematics.” – Katherine Johnson
20. “Everything is physics and math.” – Katherine Johnson
Relatable Katherine Johnson quotes
21. “I see a picture right now that’s not parallel, so I’m going to go straighten it. Things must be in order.” – Katherine Johnson
22. “I like to learn. That’s an art and a science.” – Katherine Johnson
23. “I’m just lucky — the Lord likes me and I like him.” – Katherine Johnson
24. “All jobs are important to somebody. They had to be important to somebody. My theory is, do the best you can all the time. No fooling around.” – Katherine Johnson
25. “We always worked as a team. It’s never just one person.” – Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson quotes on education
26. “Many professors tell you that you’d be good at this or that, but they don’t always help you with that career path.” – Katherine Johnson
27. “Take all the courses in your curriculum. Do the research. Ask questions. Find someone doing what you are interested in! Be curious!” – Katherine Johnson
28. “Know how to learn. Then, want to learn.” – Katherine Johnson
29. “I was excited at something new, always liked something new, but give credit to everybody who helped. I didn’t do anything alone but try to go to the root of the question and succeeded there.” – Katherine Johnson
Powerful Katherine Johnson quotes
30. “Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing. Sometimes they have more imagination than men.” – Katherine Johnson
31. “I don’t have a feeling of inferiority. Never had. I’m as good as anybody, but no better.” – Katherine Johnson
32. “Like what you do, and then you will do your best.” – Katherine Johnson
33. “Men don’t pay attention to small things.” – Katherine Johnson
34. “You should always be interested in something.” – Katherine Johnson
35. “Go see ‘Hidden Figures,’ and take a young person! It will give a more positive outlook on what is possible if you work hard, do your best, and are prepared.” – Katherine Johnson
36. “Follow your passion. Whatever you’re doing, do your best at all times and make it as correct as possible. Work as if someone is watching you. Then you’ll be prepared when an opportunity presents itself. And you’ll have the answers.” – Katherine Johnson
37. “Girls, some of them are reluctant to ask questions. But if you want to know, you ask the question. There’s no such thing as a dumb question. It’s dumb if you don’t ask it.” – Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson quotes about upbringing
38. “I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed… anything that could be counted, I did.” – Katherine Johnson
39. “I had a very, very interesting childhood, but, oh my, education was the primary focus in our family.” – Katherine Johnson
40. “I entered college; I was 15. I was going to be a math teacher because that was it. You could be a math teacher or a nurse, but I was told I would make a good research mathematician and they had me take all of the courses in the catalog.” – Katherine Johnson
When’s the last time you learned something new?
Throughout Katherine Johnson’s legacy is an emphasis on education. Katherine Johnson’s parents ensured that there would be no roadblocks between Johnson and the education she strived for. This is even more inspirational considering the time-period that Johnson was raised in, the early 1900s.
During that period, being African-American could have prevented her from reaching her full educational potential. For example, the county she grew up in didn’t offer public schooling for African-Americans past eighth-grade.
To aid her schooling, her family moved cities to ensure that Johnson’s higher education could be pursued. Their dedication to investing in the future of their children is clear and laid the foundation for Johnson to achieve a long-lasting career and thriving life.
Which of these Katherine Johnson quotes and sayings is your favorite? Let us know your thoughts down below.
May 14, 2020 7:30 AM EST