Hidden Figures

Coolidge Corner Theatre Brookline, MA


Dr. Evelynn Hammonds

Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University; Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Hidden Figures— The Role of African American Women in the Space Program

A discussion of the role of African American women in the space program.

Coolidge Corner Theatre Brookline, MA

Film Synopsis

A team of African American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program's first successful space missions.

As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, three brilliant African American women at NASA — Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) — became the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race, and captivated the world.

About the Speaker

Dr. Evelynn Hammonds is the author of Childhood's Deadly Scourge: The Campaign to Control Diphtheria in New York City, 1880–1930 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999). She co-edited with Barbara Laslett, Sally G. Kohlstedt, and Helen Longino Gender and Scientific Authority (University of Chicago Press, 1996). She has published articles on the history of disease, race and science, African American feminism, African American women and the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, and analyses of gender and race in science and medicine. She is also the author of the article is "Gendering the Epidemic: Feminism and the Epidemic of HIV/AIDS in the United States, 1981-1999" which appears in Science, Medicine, and Technology in the 20th Century: What Difference Has Feminism Made? (2000).

Professor Hammonds's current work focuses on the intersection of scientific, medical, and socio-political concepts of race in the United States. She is completing a history of biological, medical, and anthropological uses of racial concepts entitled, The Logic of Difference: A History of Race in Science and Medicine in the United States, 1850–1990. She is also completing the MIT Reader on Race and Gender in Science co-edited with Rebecca Herzig and Abigail Bass. Professor Hammonds was named a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer (2003–2005) by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. She has been a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and a Fellow in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In July 2005, Professor Hammonds was named Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity at Harvard University, and in March 2008, Professor Hammonds was named Dean of Harvard College.

Professor Hammonds earned a Ph.D. in the Department of History of Science, an S.M. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a B.E.E. in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a B.S. in physics from Spelman College. She taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before coming to Harvard. While at MIT she was the founding director of the MIT Center for the Study of Diversity in Science, Technology, and Medicine. Professor Hammonds has been a Visiting Professor at UCLA and Hampshire College.