Mary G. Ross, Mathematician and Engineer, Cherokee (1908-2008)
Mary Golda Ross is considered the first known Native American engineer and is the first female engineer to work for Lockheed. Her great grandfather John Ross was one of the longest serving chiefs of the Cherokee Nation. She received a Master’s degree in mathematics and was hired by Lockheed in 1942. The company sent her to study aeronautical engineering at UCLA. In her time, men dominated the corporate world; nevertheless, she worked her way up in Lockheed, most notably helping to develop plans for the P-38 Lightning Fighter plan and eventually went to work for NASA. Since NASA’s early spaceflight expertise relied on technology being used by the military and since Ross was an expert in this field of knowledge, she contributed greatly to their program. Although much of Ross’s work on testing top secret rocket and missile systems at NASA remains classified, it is known that she made important contributions to the Apollo Program and helped write NASA’s Planetary Flight Handbook, which is the agency’s guide to space travel.