Scientist profiled in ‘Hidden Figures’ recalls early love of science

Posted at 1:12 AM, Apr 08, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. -- A massive crowd turned out to hear from one of the female scientists featured in the movie “Hidden Figures” at VCU Friday afternoon.

In fact, roughly a third of the 800 or 900 people who came to see NASA aerodynamics whiz Dr. Christine Darden had to leave by order of the fire marshal.

Darden's tenure at NASA came a little after that of the female mathematicians who got John Glenn into space as told in the movie "Hidden Figures."

Dr. Christine Darden

Dr. Christine Darden

But she was in the book that launched the movie and her science-based story that started in the 1960s seemingly captivated and inspired the crowd.

Her specialty, finding out exactly how sonic booms work and finding engineering solutions to quiet them. But she had to ask a NASA director in order to work in that department.

"He transferred me to an engineering section," Dr. Darden told the crowd. "He promoted me. I had not had not had a promotion since I had been there."

Massive crowd turns out for Dr. Darden.

Massive crowd turns out for Dr. Darden.

Dr. Darden said her love of science was one of her earliest memories.

"I think I was pretty young when I started enjoying science, probably in elementary school," Dr. Darden remembered.

She hungered to know how things worked.

"Girls liked to play with dolls and my mother gave me a doll and she talked. And I cut the doll open to see why she talked. And so I didn't get any more dolls."

Dr. Darden's rocket-like path through science has inspired many and continues to do so.

"If anything, it motivated me to keep going for what I want. And to never give up," one woman in attendance said.

"I was actually sheltered from a lot of the problems that existed when I grew up," Dr. Darden said. "And I had great parents. I think I was blessed and had a good career."

But Dr. Darden said she has been criticized for one statement.

"I think it is a travesty that football players make more than teachers when the teachers are influencing so many of our children in school," Dr. Darden said. "I think sometimes we have to realize where we need to put our values and where we need to put our dollars."

Click here to see more of Mark Holmberg’s reports.