Christine Darden is an American mathematician, data analyst, and aeronautical engineer who devoted about 40 years in her career in aerodynamics at NASA focusing on supersonic flight and sonic booms. She obtained her M.S in mathematics from Virginia State University before working for NASA as a data analyst at Langley Research Center in 1967. She earned a PhD in engineering at George Washington University in 1983 and has since published numerous articles in the field. Darden has also contributed to the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race,. which tells the story of influential African American women mathematicians and engineers at NASA in the mid 20th century.
Darden fought for equality as a mathematician and woman of color while at NASA. She was initially hired as a “human computer” to calculate data for aerodynamics research. She noticed that men with the same degree as her were being appointed as engineers involved in processing the data that she and the other women hired as “human computers” generated. When she mentioned this observation to her supervisor, he, impressed by her skills, appointed her as an engineer. Over the years, Darden has worked to further her own career as well as improve the status of women in science and engineering. During her time at NASA, she led an advisory team composed of representatives from industrial manufacturers and academic institutions, and later became a deputy program manager of The TU-144 Experiments Program, an element of NASA’s High Speed Research Program. Since then, she served in a number of leadership positions at NASA, most recently as the Director of the Office of Strategic Communication and Education at NASA Langley Research Center (2004-2007). She has also received numerous accolades over the years, including the Congressional Gold Medal in 2019.