Gladys West



Gladys West (born Gladys Mae Brown) was born in 1930 in Virginia and is known for her contributions to GPS technology.

Her family was an African-American farming family in a community of sharecroppers. She discovered early on that she needed an education to get out of her situation. She graduated at the top of her class in 1948, earning a scholarship to Virginia State College and studied mathematics. She taught math and science for two years in Virginia then returned to school to complete her Masters degree, finishing in 1955.

She worked at the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren, Virginia, where she programmed the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division for large-scale computers. She then completed her most important work, analyzing data from satellites, compiling altimeter models of the Earth's shape. She perfected the data collection for years, which eventually became the basis for GPS.

She retired in 1998 and was inducted into the United States Air Force Hall of Fame in 2018.

Further Reading