Annie Easley

Annie Easley

Annie Easley
NASA Science and Engineering Newsletter Annie Easley.jpg
Cover of Science and Engineering Newsletter featuring Easley at the Lewis Research Center
Born(1933-04-23)April 23, 1933
DiedJune 25, 2011(2011-06-25) (aged 78)
EducationB.S. in Mathematics, 1977
Alma materCleveland State University
OccupationComputer Engineer
EmployerLewis Research Center at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
Known forNACA and NASA work

Annie J. Easley (April 23, 1933 – June 25, 2011) was an American computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist.[1] She worked for the Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center[2]) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). She was a leading member of the team which developed software for the Centaur rocket stage,[3] and was one of the first African-Americans to work as a computer scientist at NASA.

Early life and education

Annie Easley was born to Samuel Bird Easley and Mary Melvina Hoover in Birmingham, Alabama.[1] Before the Civil Rights Movement, educational and career opportunities for African-American children were very limited. African-American children were educated separately from white children, and their schools were often inferior to white schools. Annie's mother told her that she could be anything she wanted but she would have to work at it. She encouraged Annie to get a good education. From the fifth grade through high school, Annie attended Holy Family High School, and was valedictorian of her graduating class.[4]

In 1950, Easley enrolled in classes at Xavier University in New Orleans,[3] which was then an African-American Roman Catholic University, and majored in pharmacy for about two years.[4]

In 1954, she returned to Birmingham. As part of the Jim Crow laws that maintained racial inequality, African Americans were required to pass a literacy test and pay a poll tax in order to vote, which was outlawed in 1964 in the Twenty-fourth Amendment. She remembered the test giver looking at her application and saying only, "You went to Xavier University. Two dollars." Subsequently, she helped other African-Americans prepare for the test.[5]

Shortly thereafter, she moved to Cleveland to be closer to her husband's family,[6] 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.[7]

Throughout the 1970s, Easley advocated for and encouraged female and minority students at college career days to work in STEM careers.[8]

Career at NACA and NASA

Annie Easley, NASA

In 1955, she read a story in a local newspaper about twin sisters who worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) as "computers".[9] She applied for a job the next day, and was hired two weeks later - one of four African Americans of about 2500 employees. 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.[10] She continued her education while working for the agency, and in 1977, obtained a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Cleveland State University.[11] As part of a continuing education, Easley worked through specialization courses offered by NASA. Easley was denied financial aid that other employees received for education, without explanation from the agency.[6]

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.[12] 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.[10] Despite her long career and numerous contributions to research, she was cut out of NASA's promotional photos.[6]

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.[3][10] Her work contributed to the 1997 flight to Saturn of the Cassini probe, the launcher of which had the Centaur as its upper stage.[10]

Annie Easley was interviewed in Cleveland on August 21, 2001 by Sandra Johnson.[13] 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 Civil Rights Movement, Glenn Research Center, Johnson Space Center, space flight, and the contribution of women to space flight. In that same Interview, Easley was asked whether she still played with gadgets and stated “I don't have the time or the desire. I will get the email and I'll send it, but I don't play with it. It's not like this fascinating thing I play with. I'd much rather be out doing something actively, like on the golf course or doing other things.[7]

Selected works

  • Performance and Operational Economics Estimates for a Coal Gasification Combined-Cycle Cogeneration Powerplant. Nainiger, Joseph J.; Burns, Raymond K.; Easley, Annie J. NASA, Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio. NASA Tech Memo 82729 Mar 1982 31p
  • Bleed Cycle Propellant Pumping in a Gas-Core Nuclear Rocket Engine System. Kascak, A. F.; Easley, A. J. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio. Report No.: NASA-TM-X-2517; E-6639 March 1972
  • Effect of Turbulent Mixing on Average Fuel Temperatures in a Gas-Core Nuclear Rocket Engine. Easley, A. J.; Kascak, A. F.; National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio. Report No.: NASA-TN-D-4882 Nov 1968

See also


  1. ^ a b "Annie Jean Easley Obituary". The Plain Dealer. ClevelandOhio. 28 June 2011.
  2. ^ Mills, Anne (21 September 2015). "Annie Easley, Computer Scientist". NASA. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Mullig, A. (1999). Proffitt, Pamela (ed.). Notable Women Scientists. Michigan, United States: Gale. pp. 142. ISBN 0787639001.
  4. ^ a b "Annie Easley helped make modern spaceflight possible". Engadget. Retrieved 2020-03-07.
  5. ^ "Annie Jean Easley: Engineer, mathematician, and rocket scientist". Rejected Princesses. Retrieved 2020-03-07.
  6. ^ a b c "Meet Annie Easley, the barrier-breaking mathematician who helped us explore the solar system". massivesci.com. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  7. ^ a b "Annie J. Easley Oral History". historycollection.jsc.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2020-03-07.
  8. ^ Heidman, Kelly (2015-09-21). "Annie Easley, Computer Scientist". NASA. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  9. ^ Williams, Talithia (2018-04-10). Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics. Race Point Publishing. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-7603-6028-6.
  10. ^ a b c d Thomas, Kindra (16 March 2017). "Annie Easley, Computer Scientist and Mathematician". NASA. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  11. ^ Spangenburg, Ray; Moser, Diane; Long, Douglas (2014-05-14). African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4381-0774-5.
  12. ^ "Easley, Annie J.: American Computer Scientist" in World of Computer Science. Brigham Narin, Ed. (Detroit, MI: Gales Group), 2002. p. 210.
  13. ^ Annie Easley (21 August 2001). "Annie J. Easley Oral History" (PDF). NASA Oral History Project (Interview: PDF). Interviewed by Sandra Johnson. Cleveland.


  • Black Contributors to Science and Energy Technology. US Department of Energy (Washington, D.C.: Office of Public Affairs), 1979, p. 19. DOE/OPA-0035 (79).
  • The ACM-Mills Conference on Pioneering Women in Computing. Mills College, Oakland, California. May 7, 2000
  • In Black and White: A Guide to Magazine Articles, Newspaper Articles and Books Concerning More than 15,000 Black Individuals and Groups. 3rd edition Mary Mace Spradling, ed. (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co.), 1980. p. 289.
  • "Easley, Annie J.: American Computer Scientist" in World of Computer Science. Brigham Narin, Ed. (Detroit, Michigan: Gales Group), 2002. p. 210.

Further reading

  • Pendergast, Sara; Pendergast, Tom (2007). Contemporary Black biography. profiles from the international Black community. Detroit, Michigan: Thomson Gale. ISBN 9781414429205. OCLC 183327197.
  • Warren, Wini (1999). Black women scientists in the United States. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-33603-3.

External links

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