Christine M. Darden
D.Sc. ’83, Honorary Doctor of Science ’19
Mathematician, Aerospace Engineer, Member of the Senior Executive Service
Monumental Achievement: With her feet firmly planted on the ground, Christine Darden enjoyed a career that reached to the moon. A mathematician, data analyst, and aeronautical engineer, Darden is one of the researchers featured in the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, a history of some of the influential African American women mathematicians and engineers at NASA in the mid-20th century. She was the first African American woman at NASA's Langley Research Center to be promoted into the Senior Executive Service, the top rank in the federal civil service. In 2019, Darden was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award of the U.S. Congress.
"I was very fortunate in 1973 when I enrolled in GW’s off-campus graduate program at NASA Langley Research Center. I have fond memories of two GW professors, particularly my dissertation advisor, Dr. Myers, who was very supportive of my work. Under his advisement, I developed a code that would extrapolate the signal from a 10” model in a valid manner, which was integral in minimizing the sonic boom. I am very grateful for the professors, acousticians and engineers I was able to work with during my time at GW—they broadened my perspective and ultimately helped me to be successful as an aerospace engineer in the field."
Dr. Christine Mann Darden is an internationally recognized authority in the field of sonic-boom minimization. Darden began her 40-year career at the NASA Langley Research Center in 1967 as a data analyst and was reassigned to the position of aerospace engineer in 1973, where she began her work in sonic boom minimization. In her roles as researcher and leader, she contributed a computer-based tool for the definition of the equivalent area of a minimum-boom aircraft for given flight conditions. She then, with a partner, validated this process by designing models to the equivalent area and testing them in wind tunnels. In 2002, a test flight of a modified F-5 sonic boom demonstrator validated the equivalent-area approach to sonic boom minimization in flight. Darden became a member of the Senior Executive Service at NASA in 1999, when she was named director of the aerospace performing center program management office. She also served as the assistant director at Langley for strategic planning, and finally as the director of strategic communications and education before retiring in 2007. Darden received her bachelor of science degree in mathematics from Hampton University in 1962, her master of science degree in applied mathematics from Virginia State College in 1967, and her doctor of science degree in mechanical engineering from GW in 1983.