Meet Dr. Gladys West, the hidden figure behind your phone’s GPS

Meet Dr. Gladys West, the hidden figure behind your phone’s GPS

Lauren Mackenzie Reynolds Neuroscience

Gladys West is one of the reasons why you can receive driving directions from your phone or tag a photo location on Instagram

McGill University / December 25, 2019

Whether you are getting driving directions from your phone or tagging the location of an Instagram photo, the use of GPS (Global Positioning System) has become seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. But less ubiquitous is the knowledge that GPS got its start in the mind of an Air Force mathematician named Gladys West.

West was born in 1930 in Dinwiddie County Virginia, a rural community where her family had a small farm. There, surrounded by sharecroppers, farmers, and tobacco factory workers, she decided early on that staying and working in rural Virginia was not the future she pictured for herself. She considered education the key to her way off of the farm, and she worked hard to get top grades in all of her subjects in school. Although her family didn’t have the money to send her to college, her hard work paid off – she secured a scholarship to study at Virginia State University by graduating from her high school as valedictorian in 1948.

This article appears in its entirety at Massive Science website. It can be read here.

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