Christine Darden is a mathematician, data analyst, and aeronautical engineer who worked at NASA for almost 40 years. While working at NASA, she spent much of her time researching supersonic flight and sonic booms. Born in 1942, Darden’s parents encouraged her to pursue opportunities in higher education. In 1958, after graduating as her class valedictorian, she received a scholarship to Hampton University. She was an early advocate in the Civil Rights movement during her time here and graduated with her B.S. and a teaching certificate in 1962. After marrying her husband, Walter Darden Jr., Darden went to Virginia State College to become a research assistant studying aerosol physics while working toward her master’s degree.
Soon thereafter, NASA hired Darden to work in their computer pool as a data analyst writing computer programs at Langley. In 1973, she received a promotion to become an aerospace engineer and in 1983 she earned her Ph.D. in engineering from George Washington University. While at NASA, Darden worked on many projects that dealt with supersonic flight and sonic booms. She revolutionized the aerodynamic designs to create low-boom sonic effects and was appointed leader of the Sonic Boom Team. As the leader of this team, she focused on ways to negate the negative effects of sonic booms and tested new designs for aircrafts. She also designed computer programs to simulate sonic booms and their effects on aircrafts.
Throughout her career, Darden received many awards, including the Dr. A. T. Weathers Technical Achievement Award, the Candace Award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Woman, and the Presidential Citizenship Award at Hampton University. She has also received honorary degrees from North Carolina State University and George Washington University. In 2019, she was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.