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Sun, 04.23.1933

Annie Easley, Rocket Scientist born

Annie Easley

*Annie J. Easley was born on this date in 1933.  She was a Black computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist. 

Annie Easley was born to Samuel Bird Easley and Mary Melvina Hoover in Birmingham, Alabama. From the fifth grade through high school, Annie attended Holy Family High School, and was valedictorian of her graduating class.  In 1950, Easley enrolled in classes at Xavier University and majored in pharmacy for about two years.  

Shortly thereafter, she moved to Cleveland to be closer to her husband's family, with the intention of continuing her studies. Unfortunately, the local university had ended its pharmacy program a short time before and no nearby alternative existed.  She began her career as a mathematician and computer engineer at the NACA Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory (which became NASA Lewis Research Center, 1958–1999, and subsequently the John H. Glenn Research Center) in Cleveland, Ohio. 

She continued her education while working for the agency, and in 1977, obtained a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Cleveland State University. As part of a continuing education, Easley worked through specialization courses offered by NASA.  She was denied financial aid that other employees received for education, without explanation from the agency. Easley's outreach for non-whites did not end with her volunteer work at college career days.

At NASA she took upon herself to be an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor. This was one of the formal ways that she helped her supervisors at NASA address discrimination complaints from all levels. Her 34-year career included developing and implementing computer code that analyzed alternative power technologies, supported the Centaur high-energy upper rocket stage, determined solar, wind and energy projects, identified energy conversion systems and alternative systems to solve energy problems. 

Her energy assignments included studies to determine the life use of storage batteries, such as those used in electric utility vehicles. Her computer applications have been used to identify energy conversion systems that offer the improvement over commercially available technologies. She retired in 1989. Despite her long career and numerous contributions to research, she was cut out of NASA's promotional photos. Easley's work with the Centaur project helped lay the technological foundations for future space shuttle launches and launches of communication, military and weather satellites. 

Her work contributed to the 1997 flight to Saturn of the Cassini probe, the launcher of which had the Centaur as its upper stage. Annie Easley was interviewed in Cleveland on August 21, 2001 by Sandra Johnson. The interview is stored in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Johnson Space Center Oral History Program. The 55-page interview transcript includes material on the history of the American Civil Rights Movement, Glenn Research Center, Johnson Space Center, space flight, and the contribution of women to space flight.  

She was also a budding athlete who founded and subsequently became the first President of the NASA Ski Club and participated in other local ski clubs. Annie J. Easley, one of the first Blacks to work as a computer scientist at NASA died on June 25, 2011. 

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