The Forgotten Scientist Who Made GPS Possible

Gladys West in 2018
Abeni Jones
March 23, 2020

Gladys West was a brilliant child who loved math and science. But her family couldn’t afford college, and it looked like a life in farming or factory work was ahead of her. She wouldn’t be discouraged

West focused on excelling in school, winning a college scholarship to study math. She’d go on to use her brilliance and determination to change the world forever.

West went to work for the US Naval Laboratory, as one of only four Black employees and the only Black woman. Despite her alienation, she worked tirelessly on a new technology involving satellites. 

We use the tech she developed every day. What was it? And why have most of us never heard her name?

Her work helped make the satellite Global Positioning System, better known as GPS, possible!

GPS revolutionized countless industries around the world. If you’ve ever printed out driving directions or had your phone tell you how to get somewhere, you can thank her!

Like other “Hidden Figures,” Black women who were instrumental in the development of crucial technology, she has largely been ignored by history books - likely because of her race and gender.

But we won’t forget her! Black innovators and scientists rarely get their due.

It’s up to us to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments - to inspire our youth to dream big and to remember how brilliant we are despite what white supremacy wants us to believe!

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