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Annie J. Easley: One of the First African-American Women Rocket Scientists at NASA

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Annie J. Easley was a computer scientist, mathematician, and a rocket scientist who worked for the Lewis Research Center of the National Aeronautics and Space administration (NASA). She was a leading member of the team which developed software for the Centaur rocket stage and she was one of the first African-American women in the field.

Easley was born April 23, 1933 to Bud McCrory and Willie Sims in Birmingham, Alabama. In the days before the Civil Rights Movement, educational and career opportunities for African-American children were very limited. However, Easley’s mother encouraged and motivated her to work hard and pursue her dreams.

She encouraged her to get a good education and from the fifth grade through high school, she attended a parochial school and was valedictorian of her graduating class. After high school she went to New Orleans, Louisiana, to attend Xavier University, then an African-American Roman Catholic University, where she majored in pharmacy for about two years.

Easley began her career as a Mathematician and Computer Engineer at the NACA Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory (which became NASA Lewis Research Center, 1958–1999, and subsequently the John H. Glenn Research Center) in Cleveland, Ohio. She continued her education while working for the agency and in 1977, she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Cleveland State University. As part of a continuing education, Easley worked through specialization courses offered by NASA. Her work contributed to the 1997 flight to Saturn of the Cassini probe, the launcher of which had the Centaur as its upper stage. Easley died in 2011, she was 78.

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