US-RSE Black History Month Spotlight - Annie Easley

Published: Feb 7, 2024 by Sophia Anyatonwu

US-RSE’s DEI working group (DEI-WG) is proud to help US-RSE celebrate and participate in Black History Month. Each week during Black History Month, the US-RSE will spotlight Black/African Americans who have been involved in computing, science, engineering, and/or math, and have inspired our members through their accomplishments in their careers and their personal stories.

This week’s Black History Month spotlight features Annie Easley

Annie Easley works on a NASA computer. (Photo Courtesy of NASA)
Annie Easley works on a NASA computer. (Photo Courtesy of NASA)

Some may know that the first computers in the US were women who were highly skilled in mathematics1. One of these “human computers” was Annie Easley, a computer and rocket scientist who spent most of her career contributing to and supporting key programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)2.

In 1955, Annie Easley began her career as a “human computer” at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the precursor to NASA, despite her initial plans to work in the healthcare field23.

As human computers began to be replaced by machines, she developed the skills needed to become a programming expert and supported NASA programs in aerospace as well as green energy23. Her contributions encompass working on alternative energy technologies, contributing to the development of the Centaur launch system, assessing how solar wind and energy could solve energy problems, and developing nuclear-powered rocket systems3.

Outside of being a computer and rocket scientist, Easley is known for her dedication to tutoring and encouraging students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue STEM careers. She was also actively involved at NASA as an equal employment opportunity (EEO) counselor and advocate for improving employee morale in the workplace23.