Columbia “Science for Seminaries” Lecture to Feature NASA Scientist Mentioned in “Hidden Figures”

Columbia “Science for Seminaries” Lecture to Feature NASA Scientist Mentioned in “Hidden Figures”

January 20, 2017—Decatur, GA—Columbia Theological Seminary has invited Dr. Christine Mann Darden to be the next lecturer for its “Science for Seminaries” program. She retired as a member of The Senior Executive Service in March 2007 from NASA Langley Research Center, where she was hired in 1967 as a Computer Data Analyst in the Re-Entry Physics Branch. The lectures are sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

On February 8, 2017 at 11:00 am, Dr. Darden will present her talk “On Their Shoulders and With the Church.” Jan Edmiston, co-moderator of the General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), will also be in attendance. This event is open to the public in the Harrington Center Chapel on the Columbia Seminary campus located at 701 S. Columbia Drive, Decatur, GA near Atlanta.

About the Talk:

Darden was recently included in the book, Hidden Figures by author Margot Shetterly as one who stood on the shoulders of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson, NASA “Human” Computers who as members of the segregated West Computers contributed to the NASA Space Program in the early 1960s. The latter are currently being featured in the Twentieth Century Fox movie of the same name.

Darden, a high school senior when Sputnik was launched in 1957 by the Russians, will weave the story of how the impact of that event, her faith, her church work, and her love of mathematics gave her the strength and direction to make up for a weak background in mathematics and become eligible to be hired by NASA. She will discuss her early career as a NASA Computer, her efforts to move into engineering and her resulting 25-year career as a sonic-boom researcher. She will further discuss how her work in the PC(USA) supported her efforts to move into the higher levels of NASA Management.

About the Speaker:

With nearly 40 years of service, Dr. Christine Darden’s final assignment at NASA Langley Research Center was as Director of the Office of Strategic Communications and Education (OSCE). Prior to that, Darden served as the Langley Assistant Director for Planning, responsible for the Langley strategic planning process, and oversight of the Center’s delivery on commitments. Darden also served as Director of the Aero Performing Center Program Management Office (APCPMO) where her office had oversight of NASA Langley’s work in Rotorcraft, Efficient Engine Technology, Computational Fluid Dynamics, and Air Traffic Management. She served as a Senior Program Manager in NASA’s High Speed Research (HSR) Program Office, and for nearly 30 years as an internationally known researcher in high-speed aerodynamics and sonic boom research.

Christine Mann Darden holds a BS Degree in Mathematics Education from Hampton Institute (now University) in Hampton, VA, a MS Degree in Applied Mathematics from Virginia State College (now University) in Petersburg, VA, and a DSc Degree in Mechanical Engineering from George Washington University in Washington, DC.  Darden also holds a Certificate of Advanced Study in Management from Simmons College Graduate School of Management in Boston, MA.  In December 2012, Darden was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. During her NASA career, Darden authored over 57 technical papers and articles, primarily in the areas of sonic boom prediction, sonic boom minimization, and supersonic wing design. Darden has been recognized with dozens of awards and honors—including two NASA Medals, one for her work and leadership of the Sonic Boom Program, and the other for her active involvement in working with and encouraging students to pursue careers in Math and Science.  In addition, she received the Black Engineer of the Year Outstanding Achievement in Government Award and the Women in Science & Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.

Darden, a life-long Presbyterian and a graduate of Allen High School, an all girl United Methodist Boarding School in Asheville, NC, became quite active in her local church as her children, three girls, were growing up. In 1983, just after reunion between the UPCUSA and PCUS, Darden assumed positions of Chairman of the Southern Virginia Presbytery Boundaries Committee and as member of the Committee on Synod Boundaries for the Synod of the Piedmont. Since Southern Virginia overlapped at least four Presbyteries in PCUS, this required meeting and negotiating with several other Presbytery Boundary Committees. Following a resolution of boundaries for both Synods and Presbyteries, Darden chaired the Structural Design and Staffing Rationale Committee for Synod “D”, later named the Synod of the Mid Atlantic. She served as Moderator of this new Synod from 1989 to 1990. Darden then assumed the Chairman position of the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia Council from 1990-1994. Darden served on the General Assembly Committee on Representation (GACOR) of the PCUSA from 1995 to 2002 (Vice Moderator, 2001-2001) and on its General Assembly Advisory Committee for Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) from 2008 to 2016 (Co-Chair from 2012-2016).

About the Program Series:

Columbia Theological Seminary is one of ten Christian Seminaries part of a pilot program by AAAS for integrating science into core theological curricula. Grants totaling $1.5 million were awarded to the schools for integrating science into the curriculum for at least two core theological courses (such as those in systematic theology, biblical studies, church history, and pastoral theology) over the next two years. This integrated approach will bring science into the core of seminary theological education, impacting individual seminaries as well as the ministries in which graduates serve. This AAAS lecture is one of many science-focused, campus-wide activities to complement these courses. Resources from the project will be made available to interested seminaries as the project unfolds, some of which will be archived online at

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science ( as well as Science Translational Medicine ( and Science Signaling ( AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The nonprofit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

Columbia Theological Seminary is “Cultivating faithful leaders for God’s changing world.” As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia Seminary is a community of theological inquiry and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia offers six graduate degree programs and dozens of courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through The Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, please visit

AAAS Contacts:
Christine Scheller

Earl Lane

Columbia Contacts:
William Brown
William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament

Michael Thompson
Director of Communications

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