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On the first day of Women's History Month, the Virginia Senate passed a resolution to commend Gladys West, one of the "Hidden Figures" behind the invention of GPS. She's a mathematician, an engineer, a trailblazer, and a living testimony to the resilience and brilliance of black women in our history. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy #WomensHistoryMonth #HiddenFigures #GladysWest #womeninhistory #blackwomenrock
GPS Inventor Gladys West Inducted Into Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame
Gladys West is a “hidden figure” just like her sorority sisters Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson who inspired the film by the same name.
West was instrumental in creating the navigation systems that we now call GPS (Geographical Positioning System) during her 42 year career working at the naval base in Dahlgren, Virginia. She was a graduate of Virginia State University and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
Unable to attend the Aug 2018 induction ceremony, Dr. Gladys West was honored at the Pentagon as one of the 2018 Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers for her contributions to the @usairforce space program. Read more about her incredible career: https://t.co/1b1L9OyANI pic.twitter.com/a4tnTYXOxn
— AF Space Command (@AFSpace) December 12, 2018
Earlier this month, Gladys West was inducted into the Space and Missiles Pioneers Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Pentagon according to Blavity.
“This involved planning and executing several highly complex computer algorithms which have to analyze an enormous amount of data,” Ralph Neiman, her supervisor who recommended her for commendation in 1979, said. “You have used your knowledge of computer applications to accomplish this in an efficient and timely manner.”
Here’s how the Patrick Air Force Base website described Ms. West’s work:
Dr. Gladys West is among a small group of women who did computing for the U.S. military in the era before electronic systems. Hired in 1956 as a mathematician at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, she participated in a path-breaking, award-winning astronomical study that proved, during the early 1960s, the regularity of Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune. Thereafter, from the mid-1970s through the 1980s, using complex algorithms to account for variations in gravitational, tidal, and other forces that distort Earth’s shape, she programmed an IBM 7030 “Stretch” computer to deliver increasingly refined calculations for an extremely accurate geodetic Earth model, a geoid, optimized for what ultimately became the Global Positioning System (GPS) orbit.
We thank you, Gladys West, for sharing your brilliance with the world and giving us a much needed technological breakthrough that changed the world forever.