Meet Dr. Gladys West: The Black Woman behind GPS Technology

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Who knew a Black woman was the visionary behind the very thing we use every day during our daily commute, the Global Positioning System (GPS). Yess! Dr. Gladys West is the reason why we can check our directions when we are lost or having issues mapping where to go.

She is now getting the recognition that she deserves for all of her hard work.

At a very young age, West knew she wanted to do something outside of your typically jobs in the late 1930’s and 1940’s. And in order to do so, she knew that education was the only way. West graduated at the top of her class, got a free ticket to college and majored in math.



After graduating from Virginia State University she began working as a math teacher for two years in Sussex County. In 1956, West became the second black woman to join the Dahlgren, Virginia, naval base in 1956. According to Black Enterprise, she collected location data from orbiting machines and input the data into giant supercomputers, while using early computer software to analyze surface elevations.


She worked there for 42 years and retired in 1998. Her contributions to GPS were later recognized when one of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha read her bio for an alumni function.

In 2017 Capt. Godfrey Weekes, a fromer officer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, in a message he wrote about Black History Month. “She rose through the ranks, worked on satellite geodesy (science that measures the size and shapeof Earth) and contributed to the accuracy of GPS and the measurement of satellite data. s Gladys West started career as mathematician at Dahlgren in 1956, she likely had no idea that her work would impact the owrld for decades to come.”

On December 6, the 87-year-old West was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Piooneers Hall of Fame bt the United States Air Force during a ceremony at the Pentagon.

“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,’” she says. 

We salute you Dr. Gladys West!!