Virginia native Dr. Gladys West was honored during a ceremony at the Pentagon this week for the invention of the Global Positioning System - also known as the GPS. West was inducted into the Missile Pioneers and Air Force Space Hall of Fame.
Dr. Gladys chose her own path, realizing she had to get an education to get away from the life of picking corn, cotton and tobacco and beating the leaves for cigarettes like her parents. West went on to attend Virginia State studying math and graduating top of her class. She became a teacher for a few years then went on to acquire her masters degree.
In 1956, West was the second black woman to be employed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. She studied and collected data from satellites - inevitably leading her to developing the GPS. Around 1986, she published a 60 page illustrated guide "Data Processing System Specifications for the Geosat Satellite Radar Altimeter". Dr. Gladys West retired in 1998 - working a total of 42 years for Dahlgren.
"When you're working everyday, you aren't thinking, 'What impact is this going to have on the world?' You're thinking, "I've got to get this right.'"
Dr. Gladys West has been a very humble and hard working woman - partially the reason why we've never heard about her role in the creation of the GPS device til recent years.
In 2017, Captain Godfrey Weekes, commanding officer at the time, described West's intergral and crucial role in a Black History Month statement writing, "She rose through the ranks, worked on the satellite geodesy and contributed to the accuracy of the GPS - and its measurement of satellite data.
Let's give a huge congratulations to Dr. Gladys West! Thank you for your beautiful mind and grand contribution to technology.