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lunes, octubre 3, 2022

The African-American Woman Who Crossed the Wind Tunnel

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Quitzé Fernández
Quitzé Fernándezhttps://www.amonite.com.mx
Amonite es un sitio dedicado a la divulgación científica para niños y jóvenes. Somos un grupo de amigos que escucha, cuenta historias y las plasma en algo parecido a un papel. Por medio de la ilustración y los medios audiovisuales buscamos acercar las novedades de ciencia y tecnología con un lenguaje accesible para todos. Amonite es un proyecto binacional editado y diseñado entre México y Argentina. Nace en 2017 a iniciativa de Quitzé Fernández, quien obtuvo en 2013 el Premio Nacional de Periodismo y Divulgación Científica, convocado por el Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología de México (Conacyt), con la crónica La mujer que encontró dinosaurios en el patio de su casa. A él se unieron los ilustradores Daniel Galindo y Jess Silva, que han generado trabajo visual para diarios e instituciones del norte de México; y más adelante los periodistas José Juan Zapata y Jessica Jaramillo, en la edición y generación de contenido, desde Buenos Aires, Argentina. Todos ellos forman parte del staff permanente de Amonite, junto a un grupo de colaboradores que aportan sus visiones periodísticas, visuales y literarias del mundo de la ciencia.
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Illustration: Carolina Robles

Being a woman and African-American in the mid-twentieth century could be a double limitation for a person in the United States, but Mary W. Jackson was able to overcome adversity and become NASA's first female engineer

Being a woman, mother and African-American in the mid-fifties of the last century might seem like three strikes for someone who wanted to excel in the engineering world, but Mary W. Jackson knew she didn't want to be out of the game. And although it wasn't all triumphs in her career, she is now recognized as one of the great pioneers of the aerospace career.

May was born in Virginia, United States, on April 9, 1921, at a time when racial segregation was a reality in her country. African-American men and women could not access the same services and places as white people, even though slavery had ended more than half a century ago.

As a child, she showed great interest in numbers, so she entered Hampton University (a university only for African-American students) where she graduated in mathematics and physics, and soon began working as a teacher, in addition to obtaining other jobs as an accountant and secretary. He married and had two children, and until then nothing seemed to indicate that his life would go as expected.

Make accounts to go to space

In those years of the late 1940s, there was no current NASA, but its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. During World War II, the city of Hampton had become an important center of technological development.

In 1951 Jackson began working in the computing section of the western area (a segregated area for African Americans), at the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, one of NACA's important research centers, where he was under the command of another African-American pioneer, Dorothy Vaughan.

The Wind Tunnel

In engineering, a wind tunnel or aerodynamic tunnel, is a basic tool that allows the development of new aircraft, spaceships, missiles or cars. It simulates the conditions that the object will experience when in use in real conditions, when it is subjected to strong air or gas pressures around it.

It was in 1953 when engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki asked him to work together on his research in the Supersonic Pressure Tunnel, a 1.2 by 1.2 meter and 45,000 kilowatt wind tunnel, used to study the forces on a model by generating winds of almost twice the speed of sound.

Czarnecki soon realized Mary Jackson's abilities and encouraged her to continue studying mathematics and physics, something that for her was little less than impossible in a Virginia advocate of racial segregation. But Mary was not frightened and managed to be admitted to Hampton High School, at the University of Virginia, exclusively for whites.

In 1958, she obtained the necessary degree and became NASA's first African-American female engineer. That same year he published his first report, based on the results of his experiments in the supersonic wind tunnel.

The glass ceiling

Although Jackson made considerable contributions from his position within NASA, he soon realized that promotion for women engineers, even white, was very few. Many people call this reality of women who are excluded from management or management positions “the glass ceiling”.

In 1979, she decided to accept a minor position at NASA to lead the Office of Equal Opportunity's Langsley Federal Program for Women, where she endeavored to promote the hiring and promotion of a new generation of mathematicians and engineers.

Jackson retired in 1985, but his name will always be remembered as an example of how it is possible to fight adversity and achieve goals. And his story will never be forgotten: in 2016, the film Hidden Talents was released, which tells how his calculations, together with Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, helped the first astronaut to make a complete orbit over the Earth in 1962.

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