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Annie Easley

Computer Scientist & Rocket Scientist

Who is Annie J. Easley? 

Annie J. Easley was an African American woman, born in Birmingham, Alabama, before the Civil Rights Movement. That meant there was nothing easy about her life. During this time, Black children, especially Black girls, were not afforded the same opportunities as their white peers. They attended different, often worse, schools, went to separate movie theaters, ate at their own diners. It was like the whole world was telling Annie she wasn’t allowed to be anything more than what was expected of her. And becoming a rocket scientist was not expected of her. 

Luckily, Annie had a mother like Mary Melvina Hoover. Mary told Annie that anything was possible if she wanted it, if she worked towards it. She encouraged Annie to get a good education and be the smart girl she was meant to be. And Annie did just that. From fifth grade through high school, Annie attended Holy Family High School and graduated top of her class. 

She had never heard of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and definitely never heard anything regarding ‘human computers.’ All she knew was the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio, needed people with strong math skills, and that she needed a job after moving from her hometown. Two weeks later, Easely began a career that would inspire thousands, contribute to numerous projects, and break down barriers for women and people of color in the field of science and STEM as a whole. 

Starting out at NASA as a human computer, she developed and implemented computer code used in determining solar, wind, and energy projects. Her work led to the development of battery technology used in early hybrid cars. When first hired, Annie was one of only four African American employees at the Lab. However, she quickly proved herself to be one of the best employees NASA had seen. In a 2001 interview, Annie says: “I just have my own attitude. I’m out here to get the job done, and I knew I had the ability to do it, and that’s where my focus was.” 

When technology was about to replace her, Annie evolved with it, learning computer programming to support several more NASA programs. Even in the face of discrimination, she persevered. “My head is not in the sand. But my thing is, if I can’t work with you, I will work around you. I was not about to be [so] discouraged that I’d walk away. That may be a solution for some people, but it’s not mine.” 

Annie Easley Starting out at NASA as a human computer, she developed and implemented computer code used in determining solar, wind, and energy projects. Her work led to the development of battery technology used in early hybrid cars.

3 Things We Love About Annie:

  • Annie admitted she had never intended to be either a role model or a trailblazer. She set out not only to do good work, but to exemplify kindness and positivity. Sometimes, you can’t only be a smart girl. You have to also be a kind girl! In a transcript of her 2001 NASA interview, Annie highlights the importance of teamwork and shows gratitude to her coworkers. There are many more examples of her discipline, kindness, and generosity.
  • Easley participated in several outreach programs, including school tutoring programs to inspire female and minority students to consider careers in STEM. 
  • Annie Easley was the founding member and president of the NASA Lewis Ski Club! She started skiing at the age of 46 and skied around the world, from Europe to Canada.

Work Cited

Annie Easley, Computer Scientist | NASA 
Annie EASLEY

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