Introduced Version Senate Resolution 73 History

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(By Senators Beach, Stollings, Jeffries, Lindsay, Baldwin, Cline, Rucker, and Unger)

[Introduced March 6, 2020]


Memorializing the life of Dorothy Vaughan, a mathematician and computer programmer that helped make NASA what it is today. 

Whereas, Dorothy Vaughan was born September 20, 1910, in Kansas City, Missouri, and later moved to Morgantown, West Virginia, the daughter of Annie and Leonard Johnson; and

Whereas, Dorothy Vaughan graduated from Beechurst High School in 1925 as her class valedictorian, and she received a full-tuition scholarship from West Virginia Conference of the A.M.E. Sunday School Convention. By the age of 19, she graduated cum laude with a B.A. in mathematics from Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio; and

Whereas, Dorothy Vaughan taught mathematics at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia, to help her family; and

Whereas, In 1943, Dorothy Vaughan was hired by Langley Research Center and was assigned to the West Area Computing Unit as a mathematician and programmer specializing in calculations for flight paths, the Scout Project, and FORTRAN computer programming. She started during the height of World War II and ended up staying there for 28 years; and

Whereas, The West Computers made great contributions in many different areas, including the United States’ space program created under John F. Kennedy; and

Whereas, In 1949, Dorothy Vaughan became the first black supervisor at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and one of the few supervisors that were female. She stayed in that position until 1958 when NACA became NASA and she then joined the NASA Analysis and Computation Division. This program had transitioned to electronic computers and Dorothy Vaughan was well known being an expert at FORTRAN, a computer programming language that was used for scientific and algebraic applications. She realized how important it was going to be to be able to use FORTRAN and taught herself and the women in her department how to use it before the transition; and

Whereas, Dorothy Vaughan contributed greatly to the Space Race and worked with other well-known computers to compile a handbook for algebraic methods for calculating machines. She fought on behalf of all women in her department, regardless of race, who deserved promotions or raises; and

Whereas, Dorothy Vaughan taught many of the notable West Computing alumni, including Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Eunice Smith, and Kathryn Peddrew and has, and will continue to, inspire generations of engineers and mathematicians; and

Whereas, Dorothy Vaughan’s life served as the basis for a nonfiction book, titled, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, which inspired the award-winning motion picture; and

Whereas, On November 18, 2019, Dorothy Vaughan was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal; and

Whereas, On October 16, 2019, a lunar crater was named after Dorothy Vaughan in celebration of her 109th birthday; and

 Whereas, Dorothy Vaughan passed away on November 10, 2008, at the age of 98, leaving behind a legacy and a country that will forever be grateful for her contributions; and

Whereas, It is fitting that the West Virginia Senate honor the life of Dorothy Vaughan for her career as a pioneer in space science and computing, and for her dedicated public service; therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate:

That the Senate hereby memorializes the life of Dorothy Vaughan, a mathematician and computer programmer that helped make NASA what it is today; and, be it

Further Resolved, That the Clerk is hereby directed to forward a copy of this resolution to the family of Dorothy Vaughan.

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