Local News

Daughter of 'Hidden Figures' NASA mathematician, physicist: 'I had goosebumps'

Posted January 31

— Katherine Moore’s mom is now famous.

Moore’s mom, mathematician and physicist Katherine Johnson, is one of the central characters who inspired the new movie “Hidden Figures,” which recently earned three Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.

Moore, who lives in Greensboro, is Johnson’s youngest daughter. She said the whirlwind journey to the silver screen all started when her mom’s biography was published in a book.

Just a month later, “Hidden Figures” debuted in theaters.

Before there were machines, computers at NASA were women mathematicians and physicists.

Hidden Figures tells the true story of three of those women and the key roles they played. Main character Katherine Johnson was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson.

Johnson, the brilliant “girl with the numbers,” was responsible for getting a man into space, but to her youngest daughter, she said, “she was just Mom.”

“I still, as you can see, get filled up when I think about it. I’m humbled by it,” Moore said.

For years, Katherine Moore said she underestimated her mom’s job because the mathematician couldn’t tell anybody about her “top secret” work at NASA. It wasn’t until Moore was a freshman in college when she stumbled on more information in a newspaper article.

“I screamed out in the library, ‘That’s my mother!’ and I called her and said, ‘You never told me what you were doing,’ and she said, ‘It was my job,’” she said.

“She always saw beyond what other people were seeing, and it showed that in the movie, which I liked,” Moore said.

Today, Johnson is 98 and still living in Virginia. While she couldn’t physically visit the movie set, she made it to the premiere.

“Octavia Spencer was sitting right beside her and I had goosebumps because she’d reach over at certain scenes and hold her hand and pat her, and it was just an out-of-body experience to have your mother honored in that way,” Moore said.

In 2015, President Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Soon a marker in West Virginia along route 64 will be renamed in her honor.

2 Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Reggie Berryman Jan 31, 9:53 p.m.
    user avatar

    This is why we have Black History Month...To make people aware of the many contributions blacks have made in building this country! I know growing up none of this was in my history books!

  • Robin Duff Jan 31, 7:20 p.m.
    user avatar

    It's a great movie!