We watched the movie ‘Hidden Figures’ on TV the other night, and we really enjoyed it, in an uncomfortable sort of way.
The movie tells the story of three black women who worked for NASA in the early 1960s, whose work effectively helped US astronaut John Glenn orbit the earth and return safely. It may or may not have represented an exact representation of reality, and of course the script was sanitised and smoothed over and given the usual glitzy movie-glamour treatment, but for me overall it represented an awkward, embarrassing time in history in a positively entertaining way. The storyline was based on a true story, but it was also a movie, not a docu-drama, and to my mind it did the job reasonably well.
Because the point is, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson were real people – that is an undisputable fact. And they were clearly top class mathematicians and scientists who did indeed work for NASA – another indisputable fact. That they would have met with the inherent societal prejudice of Jim Crow at that time is also a matter of historical record. But had it not been for the movie, I might never have heard of them, and that would have been my loss. So whatever people’s opinions on the narrative accuracy of the movie, I’ve learned something factually important from it and surely that has to be a good thing?
So who won the week for me this week (albeit retrospectively by about half a century) is without doubt, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Pioneers of their time. Thank you ladies, and I raise a toast to you 🙂