59 of the Best Katherine Johnson Quotes

Katherine Johnson was born as Katherine Coleman in 1918 in the state of West Virginia. She was a known American mathematician that worked for NASA and calculated many flight paths while working for the U.S. space program. Her work actually was involved in sending astronauts to the moon.

As a child, her intelligence didn’t go unnoticed, when she was 10 years old she began high school. At age 18, Katherine Coleman graduated West Virginia State College in 1937 with the highest honours in mathematics and French.

She married a man named James Goble, he died in 1956. In 1959 she married James Johnson, and after that she was known as Katherine Johnson. While working for NASA, she was the first woman from her division to receive credit for a research paper she had co-written in 1960.

She authored and co authored at least 26 research reports throughout her career. Johnson played a very important role in some of NASA’s projects, such as the Mercury Project (1961-1963). She also calculated paths for spacecrafts such as ‘Freedom 7’ (1961).

Katherine Johnson retired from NASA in 1986, but received many awards and honours for her work, NASA even named a building Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility in 2016. She passed away at 101 years old in February of 2020.

Katherine Johnson Quotes

  1. “We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be.” – Katherine Johnson
  2. “I like to learn. That’s an art and a science.” – Katherine Johnson
  3. “I’m always interested in learning something new.” – Katherine Johnson
  4. “Even as a professional in an integrated world, I had been the only black woman in enough drawing rooms and boardrooms to have an inkling of the chutzpah it took for an African American woman in a segregated southern workplace to tell her bosses she was sure her calculations would put a man on the Moon.” – Katherine Johnson
  5. “There’s nothing to it; I was just doing my job.” – Katherine Johnson
  6. “Give credit to everyone who helped, I didn’t do anything alone.” – Katherine Johnson
  7. “There are only two conditions right or wrong in math” – Katherine Johnson
  8. “Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing. Sometimes they have more imagination than men.” – Katherine Johnson
  9. “In math, you’re either right or you’re wrong.” – Katherine Johnson
  10. “I was excited at something new, always liked something new, but give credit to everybody who helped. I didn’t do anything alone but try to go to the root of the question and succeeded there.” – Katherine Johnson
  11. “Sometimes I could see that others in the class did not understand what W.W. Schieffelin Claytor was teaching. So I would ask questions to help them. He’d tell me that I should know the answer, and I finally had to tell him that I did know the answer, but the other students did not. I could tell.” – Katherine Johnson
  12. “Once you took the first step, anything was possible.” – Katherine Johnson
  13. “We had to determine so much. Where you were, where the Moon would be and how fast the astronauts were going.” – Katherine Johnson
  14. “You are no superior not inferior even if you are rich and you are poor” – Katherine Johnson
  15. “Like what you do, and then you will do your best.” – Katherine Johnson
  16. “When a space program came along I just happened to be working with guys and when they had briefings I asked permission to go, and they said the girls don’t usually go. And I said, well, is there a law? They said no and then my boss said ‘let her go’.” – Katherine Johnson
  17. “The women did what they were told to do. They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.” – Katherine Johnson
  18. “Men don’t pay attention to small things.” – Katherine Johnson
  19. “I liked working with smart people.” – Katherine Johnson
  20. “We always worked as a team. It’s never just one person.” – Katherine Johnson
  21. “You must always get the love for something” – Katherine Johnson
  22. “The main thing I liked what I was doing, I liked work. I liked the stars and stories we were telling, and it was a joy to contribute to the literature work that was going to be coming out. But little did I think it would go this far.” – Katherine Johnson
  23. “Everything was so new, the whole idea of going into space was new and daring. There were no textbooks, so we had to write them.” – Katherine Johnson
  24. “Take all the courses in your curriculum. Do the research. Ask questions. Find someone doing what you are interested in! Be curious!” – Katherine Johnson
  25. “Everything is physics and math.” – Katherine Johnson
  26. “There has been a lifeguard shortage for a while, so it’s good that young people are into it.” – Katherine Johnson
  27. “We put in some long hours at times, and I had three children at home. But they were very responsible, and I had family and friends who helped look after them.” – Katherine Johnson
  28. “I was always around people who were learning something. I liked to learn.” – Katherine Johnson
  29. “When you go ahead it’s special when it was impossible” – Katherine Johnson
  30. “Many professors tell you that you’d be good at this or that, but they don’t always help you with that career path.” – Katherine Johnson
  31. “I see a picture right now that’s not parallel, so I’m going to go straighten it. Things must be in order.” – Katherine Johnson
  32. “I was just excited to have challenging work to do and smart people to work with.” – Katherine Johnson
  33. “We’re really young, so there’s a lot of room for growth. If these girls stay together and work together during the off-season they will grow as a team.” – Katherine Johnson
  34. “If you want to know you ask a question. There’s no such thing as a dumb question, it’s dumb if you don’t ask it.” – Katherine Johnson
  35. “My colleagues and I were committed to the work. We found different ways to deal with the segregation.” – Katherine Johnson
  36. “Experiment for the basket was awesome but I learned something” – Katherine Johnson
  37. “We will always have STEM with us. Some things will drop out of the public eye and will go away, but there will always be science, engineering, and technology. And there will always, always be mathematics.” – Katherine Johnson
  38. “Let me do it. You tell me when you want it and where you want it to land, and I’ll do it backwards and tell you when to take off.” – Katherine Johnson
  39. “I found what I was looking for at Langley. This was what a research mathematician did. I went to work every day for 33 years happy. Never did I get up and say I don’t want to go to work.” – Katherine Johnson
  40. “I think it’s important that you learn the background of what you’re working on and how to do it, and you’ll get the right answer.” – Katherine Johnson
  41. “I believed I was where I was supposed to be.” – Katherine Johnson
  42. “For appall mission, I feel proud. It was a space journey and I made paths easy” – Katherine Johnson
  43. “I was excited at something new, always liked something new, but give credit to everybody who helped. I didn’t do anything alone but try to go to the root of the question and succeeded there.” – Katherine Johnson
  44. “I don’t have a feeling of inferiority. Never had. I’m as good as anybody, but no better.” – Katherine Johnson
  45. “I had a very, very interesting childhood, but, oh my, education was the primary focus in our family.” – Katherine Johnson
  46. “I like to work problems. If you do your best, nobody can ask you to do it over again. I never had to repeat what I did.” – Katherine Johnson
  47. “I had a question every time for what I have been thinking when there is a question why there are girls to mention and ask” – Katherine Johnson
  48. “I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed… anything that could be counted, I did.” – Katherine Johnson
  49. “We needed to be assertive as women in those days, assertive and aggressive, and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be.” – Katherine Johnson
  50. “I felt most proud on the success of the Apollo mission.” – Katherine Johnson
  51. “They needed information and I had it, and it didn’t matter that I found it. At the time, it was just a question and an answer.” – Katherine Johnson
  52. “My interest was the computer I still calculate like it I don’t need to transfer it to computer” – Katherine Johnson
  53. “John Glenn’s life will long be remembered for his time in space, his courage, and his service to all Americans.”
  54. “You are no better than anyone else, and no one is better than you.”
  55. “Our teachers made such a difference – all my teachers and professors were very supportive and nurturing.” – Katherine Johnson
  56. “All jobs are important to somebody. They had to be important to somebody. My theory is, do the best you can all the time. No fooling around.” – Katherine Johnson
  57. “Proud to do things right now you are doing and feel happy for those you will get tomorrow” – Katherine Johnson
  58. “Go see ‘Hidden Figures,’ and take a young person! It will give a more positive outlook on what is possible if you work hard, do your best, and are prepared.”
  59. “If you lose curiosity then you stop learning.” – Katherine Johnson
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Katherine Johnson Video

According to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine: “She was an American hero and her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten”

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson died at the age of 101. Johnson was part of a group of African-American women who worked on critical mathematical calculations in the early days of human spaceflight, as chronicled in the best-selling book and hit movie Hidden Figures.

Related: Quotes to Celebrate Black History Month


Katherine Johnson is not only an inspiration to people in her field of work, but also to African American women because she was one of three that were chosen to enroll in a graduate program at West Virginia State College in 1939.

She made her impact on the world and is a motivation to women, and mathematicians everywhere. Using some of her quotes will leave you inspired, motivated and moved.

Finally, see Alan Turing’s most interesting quotes

Image Credit: NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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