AUGUST 9, 1908


Born in Park Hill, Oklahoma, descendant of Chief John Ross, Mary’s Bachelor’s degree came from Northeastern State Teachers College.  She taught math & science, clerked, and was girl’s advisor at Institute of American Indian Art, Santa Fe, before earning a Master’s degree in math at Univ. of Northern Colorado.  In 1942, she worked with Lockheed engineers on the P-38 Lightning fighter.  In 1952, after becoming an engineer, Lockheed assigned her to the “Skunk Works,” a secret engineering crew that later consulted with NASA.  In the 1960s, as a senior engineer, she worked on Poseidon & Trident missiles.  Retiring in 1973, Mary recruited Native American students to the field.  A member of the Society of Women Engineers, she supported the American Indian Science & Engineering Society and Council of Energy Resource Tribes and the National Museum of the American Indian.  Ross is depicted on the 2019 Native American $1 Coin.  She died in Los Altos, California, April 29, 2008.

Source:  Kara Briggs, “Cherokee Rocket Scientist Leaves Heavenly Gift,” Cherokee Phoenix, 12/18/2018.  Retrieved 6/7/2020,
Coin:  U.S. Mint, 11/30/2018.  Reverse of the 2019 Native American Dollar coin, designed by Emily Damstra and sculpted by Joseph Menna.  Public Domain.

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