Woman’s College alum paved way for ‘Hidden Figures’

“Woman’s College alumna Virginia Tucker ’30 [was] a trailblazer for the female mathematicians — known as ‘computers – highlighted in ‘Hidden Figures.’

“Tucker was one of five women to join the first human computer pool at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in 1935.

“When World War II broke out, more women were recruited as computers to conduct wind tunnel testing and other critical research. Tucker recruited heavily at institutions across the East Coast. According to Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the book that inspired the movie, what is now UNC Greensboro graduated one of the largest cohorts of women who went on to work as human computers.

“By the early 1940s, Tucker was the head computer…. Shetterly writes:

“ ‘Over the course of twelve years, Virginia Tucker had ascended from a subprofessional employee to the most powerful woman at the lab. She had done so much to transform the position of computer from a proto-clerical job into one of the laboratory’s most valuable assets. … Between 1942 and 1946, four hundred Langley computers received training on Tucker’s watch.’

“In 1947, Tucker left civil service for a position as an aerodynamicist at Northrop Corporation, [but] her legacy continued to pave the way for female mathematicians, including the three African-American women whose stories are told in the movie.’ ”

— From “UNCG shares unique connection to movie ‘Hidden Figures’ ” in UNCG Now (Jan. 5)

How an archivist struck gold while sifting through class notes.