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  • Writer's picturePeter K F Cheung SBS

Katherine Johnson

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Act 1

  1. FADE IN.


  3. IPad in hand, PETER taps Wikipedia. We see at the top left corner of the page: Today's featured article. Then we see a headline "Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak (pictured) dies at the age of 91.

  4. Peter then swipes up and sees: Recent deaths: Katherine Johnson.

  5. PETER (V.O.): What a familiar name? Who's she?

  6. Peter taps on the name and a page headlined Katherine Johnson appears. Peter begins to read the content.

  7. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Oh yes, she was a NASA mathematician. Her calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and other US spaceflights,

  8. Remembering.

  9. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): I didn't know about her story until I watched inflight a 2016 film entitled Hidden Figures. She was portrayed as a human-computer. I envied her a lot. I wished I had known the power of mathematics when young.

  10. Act 2


  12. INT. PRIMARY SCHOOL - DAY (1963)

  13. Classroom. PUPILS are doing some exercises in Maths. Pondering over a question, Peter (9) looks frustrated.

  14. PETER (V.O.): When there are chickens and rabbits in a cage, how would one know the number of rabbits if only the number of feet and the number of chickens are known?

  15. Peter looks around his fellow pupils.

  16. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): I can't figure that out. But it seems an easy question for others. I must be very stupid.


  18. As a TEACHER (20s) is writing some mathematic symbols f(x)=2x+3 on the blackboard, Peter (14) looks perplexed.

  19. PETER (V.O.): I don't understand this. What's the concept of a function? Why do we have to memorize all these? I don't have any idea of functions at all!

  20. Pausing.

  21. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): The teacher talks about the particulars, but I can't follow. I must be very stupid. Even if he explains further, I won't get it.


  23. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Later, when the teacher was corrected by a visiting inspector, then I knew that the teacher could have taught better. Anyhow, I failed badly alright. And after struggling to learn Maths for another year, I stopped learning Maths when I became an Arts student in Form 4.

  24. Reflecting.

  25. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): From 1973 and 1974, HKU didn't admit me to read English Literature. And from 1975, a basic admission criterion was that applicants had to have an ordinary level pass in Maths.

  26. Remembering.

  27. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): As it was my dream to study at HKU, I had to satisfy the eligibility requirement.

  28. Pausing.

  29. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): That was a real challenge to me. Furthermore, I wanted to prove that I could learn Maths all by myself without being taught. With determination, focus and discipline, I succeeded in 1978 and revived my hope to get admitted to HKU.

  30. Pausing.

  31. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): But my private mission can't be compared with Katherine Johnson's public mission. She calculated the trajectory of the first American crewed space flight. When NASA first used computers to calculate crewed orbit around Earth, she was asked to verify the computer numbers.

  32. Peter checks some small prints on the screen page.

  33. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): She passed away on Feb 24, 2020, at the age of 101...I've missed any media report of her death though. Let me write about my emotions about her death tomorrow morning then. One should at least see the film.

  34. Act 3

  35. INT. STUDY - DAY

  36. Sitting behind his computer, Peter checks Wikipedia.

  37. PETER (V.O.): Today, there's another news story.

  38. Peter then check the bottom row of the screen page: Recent deaths.

  39. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): People are dying each day and the mention of Katherine Johnson will soon disappear.

  40. Reflecting.

  41. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Yes, humans are just stardust. Some are golden though.

  42. Pausing.

  43. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Kathrine Johnson retired in 1986 and lived until 2020. I shouldn't waste time and life even as a hidden figure. Let me continue to create, capture and deliver more value.

  44. Peter publishes his blog post.


  46. IPad in hand, PETER signs out Wikipedia.

  47. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): When the time is ripe, I'll publish my autobiography in Wikipedia to make myself less hidden.

  48. FADE OUT.

  49. THE END.

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