Meet Gladys Mae West, the hidden hero behind a system billions of people rely on today

Gladys West at a desk smilingDr. Gladys Mae West working in 1984. (Image/U.S. Navy)

[This article first appeared in AccuWeather News, excerpted with permission. Follow this link to the full original article]

Global Positioning System (GPS) was developed and originally used for military purposes, but these days the technology is used in ways that few could have predicted decades ago, including one of the developers herself, innovator and pioneer, Dr. Gladys Mae West.

AccuWeather Global Weather Center – February 21, 2022 – Millions of people around the world rely on GPS technology every day to navigate roadways, the sky and the oceans. What was once relegated to large paper maps, or sometimes multiple small maps, now works seamlessly on tiny smartphones or navigation devices at the touch of a finger. 

And the development of that technology is thanks in large part to the intellect of one trailblazing woman.

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Global Positioning System (GPS) was developed and originally used for military purposes, but these days the technology is used in ways that few could have predicted decades ago, including one of the developers herself, innovator and pioneer, Dr. Gladys Mae West.


Dr. Gladys Mae West pictured at Dahlgren with Sam Smith in 1985 reviewing data from the Global Positioning System she helped develop. (Image/U.S. Navy)

Growing up south of Richmond, Virginia, in Dinwiddie County, West was motivated by living in conditions she knew she didn’t want to create for herself in the future.

“We made our living by having a farm. I told myself I did not like being out in the sun working sunrise to sunset and all that, so I made good grades in all of my subjects,” West told the U.S. Navy in an interview.

West recalled growing up as a young African American girl and attending a separate school from the “white school” and riding on separate buses.

“Many times we would get the old hand-me-down things from white schools; books that weren’t new like their books were, but all of that helped to make us, I think, work harder because you know you are behind the eight ball to start with so you had to work harder,” West said.

Meet Gladys Mae West, the hidden hero behind a system billions of people rely on today (Full Story) >>

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