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Pioneering NASA ‘Hidden Figure’ Evelyn Boyd Granville dies at age 99

Trailblazing NASA “Hidden Figure” and Black mathematician, Evelyn Boyd Granville, has died at the age of 99.

Granville was one of the first two Black women in the United States to earn a Ph.D in mathematics. Her degree, despite hardships, led to positions working on NASA‘s early human spaceflight missions and a long career in education.

As shown in the group of Black women featured in the book and 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” Granville rose up, despite racial adversity, to contribute significantly to NASA’s early human spaceflight missions, including the Mercury and Apollo programs. Her death was publicized in a Washington Post obituary, published July 7.

Related: NASA’s real ‘Hidden Figures’

Granville completed her undergraduate studies at Smith College, in Massachusetts, and earned her doctorate degree at Yale University, in 1949. She continued her postgraduate career at the New York University Institute for Mathematics and eventually took a teaching positing at Fisk University.

She began a position at computing giant IBM in 1956, and was later part of the IBM team contracted by NASA in 1959, during the dawning days of the space race. Granville’s job included programming early mainframe computers, and determining equations for tracking orbital trajectories and safe reentries.

She worked on NASA’s Project Vanguard satellite and first crewed Mercury launches, and later performed moon landing calculations as technical support for engineers on the Apollo program.

Evelyn Boyd, Lawrence House, Smith College Yearbook, 1945. (Image credit: Smith College)

After her time with the space agency, Granville became a mathematics professor at California State University, where she taught students how to teach mathematics, and also wrote textbooks on the matter.

Her career in education continued into the 1980s, when she taught at the University of Texas at Tyler. It was there that she also worked to create math enrichment programs for elementary school age students, according to the Post.

Granville retired to Washington, D.C. in 2010, following the death of her husband, Ed Granville. According to her obituary, Granville died peacefully at her home in Silver Spring, Maryland on June 27.

A funeral service was held July 8 in Washington, D.C.

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