Hidden Figures tells the story of African-American women who worked as computers to solve problems for engineers and others at NASA. For the first years of their careers, the workplace was segregated and women were kept in the background as human computers. Author Margot Lee Shetterly's father was actually a research scientist at NASA who worked with many of the book's main characters. The book explains how these three historical women overcame the discrimination and racial segregation to become three American figures in history. The main character, Katherine Johnson, calculated rocket trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo missions. Johnson successfully "took matters into her own hands"; by being adamant with her supervisor about her capabilities, Katherine Johnson was allowed into all male meetings at NASA.
The book was made into a film directed by Theodore Melfi. It was released on December 25, 2016 to positive reviews from critics, and received a nomination for Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards. Octavia Spencer played Dorothy Vaughan an African American mathematician who worked for NASA in 1949. The movie made 231.3 million USD (United States Dollar). The budget of the film was 25 million USD.
While the film is based on the book, author Margot Lee Shetterly agrees that there are differences between the two, and she finds that to be understandable.
For better or for worse, there is history, there is the book and then there's the movie. Timelines had to be conflated and composite characters, and for most people have already taken that as the literal fact. ... You might get the indication in the movie that these were the only people doing those jobs, when in reality we know they worked in teams, and those teams had other teams. There were sections, branches, divisions, and they all went up to a director. There were so many people required to make this happen. ... It would be great for people to understand that there were so many more people. Even though Katherine Johnson, in this role, was a hero, there were so many others that were required to do other kinds of tests and checks to make mission come to fruition. But I understand you can't make a movie with 300 characters. It is simply not possible.