Christine Darden – Mathematician & NASA Scientist

Read about the first African American women who broken into the word of Mathematics and went on to become NASA's Senior Executive. Her life was became an inspiration to countless women.

Do you know the name of the first African-American woman who was promoted into a Senior Executive Service in NASA? Christine Darden!

Today, she is a source of inspiration for millions of women who want to join the STEM field while balancing their family life. Let’s learn more about the retired NASA engineer.



Christine Darden was born to Desma Cheney and Noah Horace Mann Sr on September 10,

1942, in Monroe, North Carolina. Both of her parents were working.

While her mother worked as an elementary school teacher, her father was an insurance agent.

She was the youngest one among five kids and the most curious one.


Encouraged by her parents, Christine Darden attended the Winchester Avenue High School but then was transferred to the Allen High Boarding School in North Carolina.

She graduated as one of the top students in 1958. During her school days, Christine developed a fondness for mathematics under the influence of her geometry teacher.

A scholarship to the prestigious Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia helped her in doing graduation.

She pursued a BS in mathematics, which she completed in 1962. The Institute is now a well-recognized black research university.

Next, she earned her MS in applied mathematics from Virginia State College in 1967.

After many years, she again decided to continue her studies and earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering with a specialization in fluid mechanics from George Washington University in 1983.


After graduation, Christine Darden was married to a middle school science teacher.

She then started her career as a math teacher.

From 1962 to 1963, Christine worked at a high school in Virginia. Next, she worked as a teacher at the Norcom High School(Portsmouth) from 1964 to 1965.

In 1965, Christine Darden got her big break when she joined Virginia State College as a research assistant.

Meanwhile, she also completed her MS from the same college.

In 1967, Christine Darden was hired by NASA at their Langley Research Center located in Hampton in Virginia.

She was hired as a Data Analyst (Women Human-Computer), where her work profile was to do calculations for engineers.

However, upon realizing that the equations she was doing are similar to those she had done during her college days, she requested the Director for transfer to the engineering section.

With utmost dedication, she does the job of a data analyst for long six years.

Then, she was promoted to an aerospace engineer in 1973. At that time, she was one of few female engineers at the Langley Research Center.

In 1989, Christine Darden was again rewarded for her hard work and primarily for successfully developing a computer code that can reduce sonic effects during the flight of supersonic aircraft.

No wonder she got a promotion and became the Sonic Boom Team Leader.

She devoted a large part of her life to studying sonic booms that are shock waves when an aircraft or other objects go faster than the speed of sound.

In 1994, Christine Darden was again promoted by NASA and was made the Deputy Program Manager of their high-speed research program.

Next, Christine Darden was appointed as the Director of the Aerospace Performing Center in 1999 and then even served the Government as a consultant!

In 2007, Christine Darden got retirement from NASA while serving as the Director of Langley’s Office of Strategic Communications and Education.


Apart from receiving the Senior Executive Career Development Fellowship in 1994, Christine Darden also received plenty of awards. 

1985-Dr. A. T. Weathers Technical Achievement Award

1987- Candace Award for Science and Technology

1988- Black Engineer of the Year Award

2018- Presidential Citizenship Award at Hampton University

2019- Congressional Gold Medal (Highest Civilian Award)

Christine Darden is also the author of over 50 publications.

These are related to sonic boom prediction, high lift wing design, flap design, and sonic boom minimization.

She even got featured in a bestselling book entitled-‘Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race’.


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