We are excited to honor Gladys West this month.
In December of 2018, Gladys West received a high honor by being inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Pentagon. Gladys was a “human computer” before the data processing era. Her work laid the groundwork for GPS systems used by military, smartphones, and cars today.
In the early of days of her career, West contributed to the study that proved the regularity of Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune.
While working as a mathematician for the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, she developed what ultimately became the GPS orbit by programming an IBM “Stretch” computer to deliver pinpoint calculations on a model of Earth.
In a later interview quoted by The Atlanta Voice, West says, “When you’re working every day, you’re not thinking, ‘What impact is this going to have on the world? You’re thinking ‘I’ve got to get this right.”
Her efforts and innovation will not soon be forgotten, as GPS has become part of our daily lives.
West retired from the Military in 1998 but continued her pursuit of knowledge by completing her PhD from Virginia Tech.