Black Woman Who Helped Create the GPS Finally Gets Some Recognition
Inspired by the re-telling of her sorority sister’s engineering success in the now classic film “Hidden Figures”, a Virginia woman named Gladys West is coming forward with her hidden history and involvement in creating a technology most of us use everyday—GPS. As it turns out, like her sorority sister, West is also an important forgotten figure of technological advancement in the U.S. before and during the Civil Rights movement. This time, its West’s work on the modern day GPS system during her 42-year career at the Navy base in Dahlgren where her work was essential to her team which developed the Global Positioning System in the 1950s and 1960s.
“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.'"
Fellow Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority member, Gwen James, was blown away by the statement. The two had known each other for more than 15 years, and James had no idea that the soft-spoken and sharp-minded West played such a "pivotal role" in a technology that's become a household word.
"GPS has changed the lives of everyone forever," James said. "There is not a segment of this global society — military, auto industry, cell phone industry, social media, parents, NASA, etc. — that does not utilize the Global Positioning System."
The revelation that her 87-year-old sorority sister was one of the "Hidden Figures" behind GPS motivated James to share it with the world.