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Renowned NASA Engineer Known as the Fourth ‘Hidden Figure’ Took Inspiration from the Bible

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Renowned NASA Engineer Known as the Fourth ‘Hidden Figure’ Took Inspiration from the Bible

By Movieguide® Contributor

By the end of her 40-year stint with NASA, Christine Darden was known as a brilliant mathematician and engineer. Obtaining her dream job wasn’t an easy goal, though.

Today, she is heralded as the fourth “Hidden Figure,” a title used by author Margot Lee Shetterly to refer to NASA’s “human computers” Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Darden herself: all of whom were scientifically-minded African American women whose example aided the civil rights movement. HIDDEN FIGURES was even adapted for the big screen back in 2016.

Though she wasn’t featured in the production, the biblical principles in the movie applied to her life, as well.

Per the Movieguide® review:

HIDDEN FIGURES is an engaging, uplifting salute to three African-American women who contribute to the NASA program during the 1960s Space Race with Russia. The story centers on Katherine Johnson. A brilliant mathematician, Katherine proves herself a critical addition to the Space Task Group helping send Astronaut John Glenn into space to orbit the earth and return safely. Katherine must work in the face of opposition due to her being a woman and an African-American, but she persists with strength and class.

HIDDEN FIGURES is a little known story, but one that honors three women who served their country in amazing ways. The three lead actresses powerfully command the screen with grace. The movie encourages a positive moral perspective supporting our God-given liberty and basic civil rights. It also rejects violence. Even in opposition, the women love their country and their jobs. They refuse to let their dignity be taken away, but they prove themselves by responding in a Christian manner.

Darden’s fascination with science and space began when she was just a child through her natural curiosity.

She recalled once being given a doll by her mother. Instead of playing with it as most girls may have, Darden became engrossed at how this human-like toy could talk. Her curiosity led to investigation – and inevitably to taking the doll apart to see how it got its voice.

As she grew older, the great space race punctuated many stages of her life including her early years as a student delving into mathematics.

In October 1957, when the U.S.S.R. (modern-day Russia) successfully launched the Sputnik spacecraft into orbit, 16-year-old Darden looked on as many Americans grew concerned that the looming satellite threatened nuclear warfare. During the Cold War, many such fears surfaced in the consciousness of the U.S. public. Three years later, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin brought more attention to the U.S.S.R.’s off-world achievements when he became the first human being in space.

Regardless of the headlines, young Darden had no particular interest in getting involved with the space race. Not yet, at any rate. She did, however, come to an understanding that, while math was stimulating, she had a definite interest in the physical sciences as well. This sparked her decision to study physics.

Soon she was taking classes at Hampton University, a daunting undertaking as she found herself taking six math courses simultaneously. Furthermore, she was typically the only female presence in the classroom. Between the workload and the sense of having to swim upstream in a predominantly male scholastic atmosphere, the pressure was a lot to put on herself.

Nevertheless, she remained determined. During this time, her faith kept her going. It was a source of personal enrichment and inspiration. Specifically, she found consolation in Scripture.

“Things in the Bible helped me live…life and believe that God can help me do certain things and work with me in certain ways,” Darden told CBN News.

With this faith and her rugged perseverance, she hit the books. All the while, she and her family were uncertain what employment might look like for her in the future.

At Hampton, Darden was unwittingly in close proximity to the local NASA center, where the three other “Hidden Figures” were working as mathematicians. By this time, these “human computers” had begun to change what the working environment was like for African-American women in this field.

Even with NASA being practically at her doorstep, Darden hadn’t considered a career with NASA. She started attending classes at Virginia State University, where her knack for working with data was finally to be recognized.

An encounter at the university’s placement office, where an office worker told her to fill in an application form for NASA recruitment, changed everything for Darden. It was successful. By 1967, she had a job at NASA.

However, she was not content with her entry position as a data analyst. Having worked in this capacity for eight years, Darden was upset that she was not set on an even playing field with her male peers.

It was then that she confronted her superior, asking him why people with practically identical backgrounds were given “vastly different jobs.” After the conversation, she was promoted to an engineer.

Darden got married. She also continued her education, earning her doctorate from George Washington University in 1983. During her time with NASA, she became the first African-American woman to be included in the Senior Executive Service.

The 79-year-old Darden has acknowledged her indebtedness to the Bible, a testament to faith in the trials of life. Her thirst for knowledge has not changed much from that blunt curiosity she had in her youth, taking apart a doll to see what made it talk back.

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Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.


4000+ Faith Based Articles and Movie Reviews – Will you Support Us?

Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.