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(HSTM10221) Hidden Figures Essay

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Sandra Watson
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Essay for Science and Gender

  • UniversityUniversity of Manchester
  • CourseScience and the Modern World (HSTM10221)

Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures, released in 2016, follows the lives of three black mathematicians; Katherine
Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. We watch as they advance through their
careers at Nasa and witness their vital, yet overshadowed, contributions to the Space Race in
1961. The film shows their frustration as their ambitions for their careers seem unreachable
because of the simple fact that they are black women in a white-male dominated corporation.
This film plays a significant role in the study of Science and the Modern World. The three
protagonists are minorities within Nasa, so their struggles highlight the relationship between
both science and gender as well as science and race.
The film is based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book about her father’s fellow African-
American colleagues at Nasa. Shetterly aimed to shed a light on their remarkable work that
they had not received public praise for. The screenplay was brought to life by Allison
Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, who also directed the film. Collectively, these people felt
passionate about telling the stories of the black women who pioneered science in the 60s and
wanted to give them more recognition than the simple job title of a ‘computer’.

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(HSTM10221) Hidden Figures Essay

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