Annie Easley

2015 Glenn Research Hall of Fame Inductee and Leading Member on the Centaur Project

Who is Annie Easley?

Annie Easley was one of the first few African American female engineers who began her career as a “human computer” at NACA (now known as NASA) in the 1950s. She was also known for her work as an advocate for women in STEM and as an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor to address race, gender, and age discrimination complaints from NASA employees.

Early Life and Education

Annie Easley was born on April 23, 1933, in Birmingham, Alabama, and died in 2011 at the age of 78 years.  She grew up in the times before the Civil Rights Movement, where educational and career opportunities for African American children were very limited. Annie was fortunate to have a supportive mother who told her that she could be anything she wanted to be, but she would have to work for it.  Her focus was on nursing through high school, but when she left to attend Xavier University in Louisiana she decided to pursue an education in Pharmacy.

She worked as a substitute teacher in Alabama where she helped African-Americans in the community to register and vote. In 1955, she read an article highlighting twin sisters who worked as “human computers” and that inspired her to apply for a job opening at the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory in Cleveland, which eventually became part of NASA in 1958. Although Ms. Easley did not have a formal degree at the time, she was known for her compelling work ethic that helped her master complex equations. She returned to school to earn her degree in mathematics from Cleveland State in the 1970s.

Her Accomplishments and Legacy

Annie was a computer scientist, rocket scientist, and mathematician who contributed to the field of space exploration. She was able to keep up with changing technology by developing proficiency in multiple computer languages. Her expertise in Fortran and SOAP allowed her to support NASA programs as a top-level programmer. Her notable contributions included developing and implementing computer code that analyzed alternative power technologies used in the Centaur rocket project. Her work with Centaur laid the technological foundation for future space shuttle launches, as well as the launches of military and weather satellites.

She was inducted into the Glenn Research Hall of Fame in 2015, and she received the honor of having a crater on the moon named after her by the International Astronomy Union (IAU)  in 2021. 

Learn more about Annie Easley from Glenn Research Center.

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