Gladys West

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Gladys West
Dr Gladys West Hall of Fame.jpg
in 2018
Born
Gladys Mae Brown

1931 (age 87–88)
EducationVirginia State University (BA, MA)
Virginia Tech (PhD)
Known forsatellite geodesy
Spouse(s)
Ira West (m. 1957)
Children3

Gladys Mae West (née Brown) (born 1930[1] is an American mathematician known for her contributions to the mathematical modelling of the shape of the Earth, and was one of the team of mathematicians who worked on the development of the satellite geodesy models that were eventually incorporated into the Global Positioning System.[2] West was inducted into the United States Air Force Hall of Fame in 2018. She married Ira West in 1957. The two had three children and now seven grandchildren.

Early life and education[edit]

West was born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia,[2][3] to a farming family in a community of sharecroppers.[1] During the 1930 through the 1940 blossoming as a young lady in Dinwiddie County south of Richmond Gladys had her mind set that she would become of something, and did not want to work in the fields, picking tobacco, corn, and cotton, or even work in a factory like her parents and generations before her.[4]

Gladys found out that the top two students of her class would be rewarded full ride scholarships to Virginia State College, and with that knowledge she did just that, earning the title of valedictorian. [5]After gaining a scholarship for achieving the first place in her high-school class,[1] she studied mathematics at Virginia State College.[2] After graduating she taught for around two years in Sussex County before she went back to school for her master’s degree.[6]

Career[edit]

In 1956 West began to work at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, where she was the second black woman ever to be employed.[1][3] She participated in an astronomical study that proved, during the early 1960s, the regularity of Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune.[7]

Subsequently, West began to analyze data from satellites, putting together altimeter models of the Earth's shape. Her supervisor Ralph Neiman recommended her as project manager for the Seasat radar altimetry project, the first satellite that could remotely sense oceans.[8][9] In 1979, Neiman recommended West for commendation.[10] West was a programmer in the Dahlgren Division for large-scale computers and a project manager for data-processing systems used in the analysis of satellite data.[11]

Data processing report for GeoSat by Gladys West[12]
Dr Gladys West being inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame in 2018

In 1986, West published "Data Processing System Specifications for the Geosat Satellite Radar Altimeter", a 51-page technical report from The Naval Surface Weapons Center (NSWC). The guide was published to explain how to increase the accuracy of the estimation of "geoid heights and vertical deflection", topics of satellite geodesy.[2] This was achieved by processing the data created from the radio altimeter on the Geosat satellite which went into orbit on 12 March 1984.[12] She worked at Dahlgren for 42 years, retiring in 1998.[1]

Capt. Godfrey Weekes, commanding officer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in 2018, described the role played by West in the development of Global Positioning System: "She rose through the ranks, worked on the satellite geodesy and contributed to the accuracy of GPS and the measurement of satellite data."[13]Gladys demeanor helped her from overwhelmingly knowing how vital she was to the development of the device.[14]

Legacy[edit]

Her contributions to GPS were uncovered when a member of West's sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, read a short biography West had submitted for an alumni function.[2]

West was selected by the BBC as part of their 2018 100 Women.[1] She was inducted into the United States Air Force Hall of Fame in 2018, one of the Air Force Space Command's highest honors.[15][7] She was one of the women who did mathematical computing for the United States Armed Forces before electronic systems.[7]

Personal life[edit]

She met her husband Ira West at the naval base and they married in 1957.[1][3] They have 3 adult children and seven grandchildren.[2] As of February 2018, West lives in King George County, Virginia.[2] In 2018 she completed a PhD via a distance-learning program with Virginia Tech.[7][16]Surprisingly Gladys after creating this important system, she will continue to pick a paper map over a tracking system.[17]

Publications[edit]

  • Gladys B. West, "Smoothing of Geos 3 satellite radar altimeter data," J. Geophysical Research, Volume 84, Issue B8, 10 July 1979, Pages 4055-4060 https://doi.org/10.1029/JB084iB08p04055
  • Gladys B. West, SEASAT Satellite Radar Altimetry Data Processing System, Technical report, Naval Surface Weapons Center, Dahlgren VA, May 1981. Full Text: pdf
  • Gladys B. West, "Mean Earth ellipsoid determined from SEASAT 1 altimetric observations", J. Geophysical Res., Volume 87, No. B7, 10 July 1982, Pages 5538-5540. https://doi.org/10.1029/JB087iB07p05538
  • Gladys B. West, "Data Processing System Specifications for the Geosat Satellite Radar Altimeter" (PDF). Naval Surface Weapons Center, Dahlgren VA, Report NSWC TR 86-149. June 1986. Retrieved 2018-02-09.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Butterfly, Amelia (20 May 2018). "Gladys West - the 'hidden figure' of GPS". BBC News Online. BBC 100 Women 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Dyson, Cathy (2018-01-19). "Gladys West's work on GPS 'would impact the world'". The Free Lance Star, Fredericksburg.com. Retrieved 2018-02-09. Also printed as: Stamford Advocate (dead link); Washington Post 2018-02-01 (dead link)
  3. ^ a b c Hayes, Jaron (2015-06-19). "Boomtown Discussion Draws Crowd for Dahlgren Museum Series". South Potomac Pilot. p. 1. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  4. ^ "Dr. Gladys West: The Black Woman Behind GPS Technology | BlackDoctor | Page 2". blackdoctor.org. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  5. ^ "Dr. Gladys West: The Black Woman Behind GPS Technology | BlackDoctor | Page 2". blackdoctor.org. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  6. ^ "Dr. Gladys West: The Black Woman Behind GPS Technology | BlackDoctor | Page 2". blackdoctor.org. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  7. ^ a b c d Air Force Space Command Public Affairs (2018-12-07). "Mathematician inducted into Space and Missiles Pioneers Hall of Fame". Air Force Space Command. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
  8. ^ "Seasat". www.jpl.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  9. ^ "NASA - NSSDCA - Spacecraft - Details". nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  10. ^ Riley, Ricky (2018-02-07). "Celebrate Black History Month: When you use your GPS, remember Gladys West". The Atlanta Voice | Atlanta GA News. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  11. ^ "Forum to Recount Impact of the War Years on Dahlgren and Region". Dahlgren Museum. 2015-06-11. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  12. ^ a b West, Gladys B. (June 1986). "Data Processing System Specifications for the Geosat Satellite Radar Altimeter" (PDF). Naval Surface Weapons Center, Report NSWC TR 86-149. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  13. ^ Capt. Godfrey Weekes, in a 2017 message about Black History Month, as quoted by Dyson (2018).
  14. ^ "Dr. Gladys West: The Black Woman Behind GPS Technology | BlackDoctor | Page 2". blackdoctor.org. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  15. ^ "Hidden Figure | Mathematician who helped develop GPS technology inducted into Air Force hall of fame". Colorado Springs Gazette. December 19, 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019 – via 9News.
  16. ^ "Meet Gladys West: One Of The 'Hidden Figures' Behind The Creation Of The GPS System". Because of Them, We Can. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  17. ^ Kenney, Tanasia (2018-02-04). "Meet Gladys West, The Black Female Engineer Who Played a 'Pivotal' Role In Developing the GPS". Atlanta Black Star. Retrieved 2019-03-17.

Further reading[edit]