Annie Easley, NASA Mathematician and STEM Pioneer

February 23, 2022

As we continue celebrating Black History Month, we're highlighting another renowned African American STEM leader, NASA scientist Annie J. Easley.

Born in 1933 in Birmingham, Alabama, Easley quickly became a skilled mathematician. Though her original career interest was nursing, she shifted course slightly and began a pharmacy profession while in high school. From there she graduated school as her class’ valedictorian.

According to Jana Carpenter of, “Easley entered Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1951. After completing two years of study she returned to Birmingham, and in 1954… [d]espite not having a B.A., she began working as a substitute teacher in Jefferson County.”

While not teaching, Easley was a natural activist. “[S]he helped members of her community prepare for literacy tests required for voter registration. The literacy tests were primarily designed to exclude African Americans from voting. Easley, however pushed back against this discrimination by helping as many as possible to register and vote.”

It was in 1955 after Easley had moved to Ohio with her husband that she came across an article by the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory, a facility that would eventually be taken in by NASA,  about twin sisters employed as “human computers–” the paper mentioning that the research station was looking for more people to work this position.

“Easley immediately applied and two weeks later began her 34 year-long career with NASA as a computer scientist and mathematician. Although she had no college degree, her graduation from high school as valedictorian coupled with her work ethic, helped her develop the ability to master complex equations needed for her position.”

Easley played a key role in astronomical research and missions, her work in coding the Centaur Rocket (a “high-energy rocket largely responsible for advancing the quest for knowledge and revolutionizing global communications,” according to a NASA article) becoming a pinnacle in her career.

Carpenter says that, “[w]hen NASA gradually replaced its ‘human computers’ with ‘machine’ computers, she learned computer programming languages like Formula Translating System (Fortran) and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).” This work would later inspire young students, and while Easley tutored and simultaneously worked to complete her mathematics degree, she encouraged her pupils to delve into the world of STEM.

Easley was a brilliant coder and mathematician, an inspiring activist, and a beloved teacher. She helped pave the way for future generations, and continues to be a role model today. This Black History Month, take the time to learn more about Easley, and all she contributed to countless lives and communities.

Capitol Tech offers many opportunities in aviation, computer science, and the management of technology, where you can follow in Easley’s footsteps to code the great technologies of tomorrow. To learn more about these programs, visit and peruse the various courses and degrees offered. Many courses are available both on campus and online. For more information, contact