Someone You Should Know: Dr. Christine Darden

Dr. Christine Darden

Dr. Christine Darden was born in Monroe, North Carolina in 1942. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the Hampton Institute, her Master’s in Applied Mathematics from Virginia State College, and her Ph. D. in Mechanical Engineering from George Washington University.

Dr. Darden started her career teaching mathematics to college and high school students. In 1967, she was added as a ‘human computer’ at NASA’s Langley Research Center. She worked for NASA for almost 40 years, retiring in 2007.

At NASA, she began processing data and doing calculations. Dr. Darden was upset that males with equivalent educational backgrounds were being promoted to engineer while she remained as a ‘computer’. After approaching her supervisor about the issue, he promoted her to the engineering division where she was one of the few female aerospace engineers at the time.

Her first task in the engineering division was to write a computer program for the sonic boom. This began her 25-year career in sonic boom minimization. She wrote more than 57 papers and articles while at NASA and was awarded two NASA medals, the Black Engineer of the Year Outstanding Achievement in Government Award, and the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Darden acknowledged that she was “able to stand on the shoulders of those women who came before me,” such as Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan who were depicted in the film “Hidden Figures”.

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