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每日英語跟讀 Ep.801: 非裔美國數學家享嵩壽一o一歲 NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies at 101

· 每日跟讀單元 Daily English

每日英語跟讀 Ep.801: NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies at 101

Katherine Johnson, the black woman whose mathematical genius took her from a behind-the-scenes job in a segregated NASA as portrayed in the film “Hidden Figures” to a key role in sending humans to the moon, died on Monday at the age of 101, NASA said.

美國航空暨太空總署(NASA)日前表示,非裔女性數學家凱薩琳‧喬森於週一過世,享嵩壽101歲。喬森的數學天賦讓她在當年實行種族隔離的美國太空總署,從幕後工作──正如電影《關鍵少數》描繪的情況──躍升為人類登月任務的關鍵角色。

Johnson was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by then President Barack Obama in 2015, and in 2016 he cited her in his State of the Union Address as an example of America’s spirit of discovery. “She’s one of the greatest minds ever to grace our agency or our country,” then NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said when Johnson was presented the presidential medal.

二○一五年,喬森獲時任美國總統歐巴馬親授總統自由勳章,歐巴馬更在二○一六年的國情咨文中將喬森譽為美國「探索精神」的典範。獲獎當時,時任NASA署長查爾斯.波頓表示:「喬森是史上最偉大的一位才智之士,榮耀本署並為美國增光。」

Johnson and her black colleagues at the fledgling NASA were known as “computers” when that term was used not for a programmed electronic device but for a person who did computations. They were little known to the public for decades but gained overdue recognition when the book “Hidden Figures” was published and the 2016 Oscar-nominated movie hit the screens. Johnson attended the 2017 Oscars ceremony, joining the film’s cast in presenting an award for documentaries, and was given a standing ovation.

在NASA創立初期,喬森和她的非裔同事們被譽為「計算機」──當年「電腦」一詞還沒被用來稱呼用程式運算的電子裝置,而是指負責計算數值的人。數十年來,她們少為大眾所知。在《關鍵少數》一書出版,並改編為電影,獲得二○一六年奧斯卡多項提名後,這群非裔女性數學家終於獲得遲來的肯定。喬森曾出席二○一七年的奧斯卡頒獎典禮,並和該電影的演員們一起頒發紀錄片獎項,獲得全場起立鼓掌。

Johnson had a groundbreaking career of 33 years with the space agency, working on the Mercury and Apollo missions, including the first moon landing in 1969, and the early years of the space shuttle program. Astronaut John Glenn thought so much of her that he insisted Johnson be consulted before his historic earth-orbiting flight in 1962. “He knew I had done (the calculations) before for him and they trusted my work,” Johnson told the Washington Post in 2017.

喬森在NASA度過石破天驚的三十三年職涯,參與過水星任務和阿波羅任務,包括一九六九年人類第一次登月,以及早期的太空梭計畫。太空人約翰‧葛倫非常信賴喬森,以至於他在一九六二年執行歷史性的繞行地球任務前,還堅持一定要諮詢過喬森才能出發。喬森後來在二○一七年時向《華盛頓郵報》表示:「他知道我已經在他之前先做完(那些計算)了,他們也相信我的結果。」

During the space race between the US and the former Soviet Union that began in the late 1950s, Johnson and her co-workers ran the numbers for unmanned rocket launches, test flights and airplane safety studies using pencils, slide rules and mechanical calculating machines. But they did their work in facilities separate from white workers and were required to use separate restrooms and dining facilities.

從一九五○年代晚期開始,美國與當時的蘇聯展開太空競賽,喬森和她的同事們就用鉛筆、計算尺,以及機械式計算機,為無載人火箭發射、測試飛行,以及飛行器安全研究等項目進行運算。然而,她們工作的區域跟白人員工分開,還被要求使用區隔開來的洗手間和用餐區。

Johnson always said she was too busy with her work to be concerned with racism. “She didn’t close her eyes to the racism that existed,” Margot Lee Shetterly wrote in “Hidden Figures.” “She knew just as well as any other black person the tax levied upon them because of their color. But she didn’t feel it in the same way. She wished it away, willed it out of existence inasmuch as her daily life was concerned.”

喬森總是說,她太忙於工作而無暇顧慮種族歧視。不過,瑪歌‧李‧雪德利在《關鍵少數》一書中寫道:「喬森從未閉上眼睛,忽視當時存在的種族主義。」「她和其他非裔美國人同樣了解因膚色而被加諸於身上的負擔與壓力,但喬森並沒有用同樣的方式感受這項問題。就她的日常生活層面而言,她希望種族歧視消失,並且用意志力讓它不再存在。」

As a girl, Johnson was fascinated by numbers and counted everything, even the steps she took while walking and the dishes she washed after dinner. She grew up in West Virginia at a time when educational opportunities for blacks were limited because of segregation. But her mother, a former teacher, and her father, a farmer and handyman, stressed education and moved the family 193km to a town that had a high school for black children.

喬森從小就著迷於數字,生活中各種事物都是她算數的對象,甚至是走路時踏過的台階、吃完晚餐後洗過的碗。她成長於西維吉尼亞州,但是當時非裔美國人的教育機會卻因種族隔離而受到限制。喬森的母親曾是一位教師,父親則是農夫和雜務工,他們相當重視教育,遂把全家搬到一百九十三公里外的城鎮,當地有非裔美國人小孩可以就讀的高中。

Johnson’s math skills got her into West Virginia State College at age 15. She zipped through the school’s math program, earning degrees in math and French before becoming one of the first black students in the graduate school at West Virginia University in 1938.

喬森的數學能力讓她在十五歲時進入西維吉尼亞州立大學就讀。她迅速通過大學裡的數學學程,取得數學和法語學士學位,並在一九三八年成為西維吉尼亞大學第一批畢業的非裔學生之一。

Johnson went to work for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a forerunner of NASA, in Hampton in 1953 with dozens of other black women. Johnson found herself in a realm made up almost exclusively of white men when she was chosen to be part of the team supporting the 1961 mission that made Alan Shepard the first American in space.

喬森在一九五三年與數十名其他非裔女性進入位於漢普頓的美國國家航空諮詢委員會工作,也就是NASA的前身。當她被選拔參與協助艾倫‧謝帕德執行美國一九六一年首次載人太空飛行任務時,喬森發現自己處在一個幾乎成員只限於白人男性的領域。

She would go on to calculate crucial rocket trajectories, orbital paths and launch windows. Johnson made the transition to the computer era and worked on the shuttle program while writing or co-writing 26 research reports before retiring in 1986, NASA said. She said she was most proud of her contributions to the first moon mission, which included the calculations that synched the lunar lander craft and the orbiting command module.

喬森後來繼續貢獻心力,運算重要的火箭軌道、環繞路徑,以及發射窗口(指最適合發射載具的一段時間範圍)。NASA表示,喬森成功過渡到電腦時代,致力於太空梭任務,並且在一九八六年退休前,以作者或共同作者的身分完成二十六份研究報告。喬森表示,她最感到驕傲的是自己在人類首次登月任務中做出的貢獻,包括讓登月小艇和環繞月球軌道的指揮艙能夠同步的運算。

Source article: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/lang/archives/2020/03/01/2003731833/2

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