The Female Navigator Who Trained WWII Pilots and Guided Astronauts

Before people entered addresses into Google Maps, travelers mapped their route based on the sun, moon, and other celestial bodies. When radios failed and bad weather hit, Mary Tornich Janislawski’s methods of celestial navigation helped save lives, especially during World War II.

The daughter of Italian and Yugoslav immigrants was born in San Francisco on June 9, 1908, two years after the great earthquake in that city. As a child, she wore an aviator’s helmet sewn from scraps of felt. In her twenties, Mary worked in a candy factory to put herself through the University of California, Berkley, and was one of three students to graduate with honors in astronomy. Eventually, Janislawski pioneered the field of navigation in the same way as Amelia Earhart broken the boundaries of flight.

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