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Meet the black old woman who invented something you are useful to the whole world

The Global Positioning System, originally Navstar GPS, is a satellite-based radionavigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Space Force. We have all used this technology before and it has being helpful to most people around the world. This technology was invented by Gladys west and some other scientists. 

Gladys West knew from a young age that she didn’t want to be a farmer. But the mathematician, born in 1930 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, still had to help harvest crops on her family’s small farm. The hard work started before daybreak and lasted well into the blistering heat of the afternoon. She hated the dirt but, while she worked, she kept her mind on the building behind the trees at the end of the farm. It was her school, and even then she knew it would be her ticket to freedom.

“I was gonna get an education and I was going to get out of there. I wasn’t going to be stuck there all my life,” West, 89, says firmly, on Zoom in her home in Virginia.

What she could not have guessed was that this focus would shatter the perceptions of black women of the time and even lead to the invention of one of our most widely used inventions – GPS, the global positioning system.

The red school building, as West's primary school was known, was a three-mile leave, through the forested areas and over streams. The long term gatherings, who were all black, were instructed in one room, yet West immediately stuck out. 

Her folks attempted to set aside some cash to send her to school, however startling bills continued hitting the asset. In the event that West planned to head off to college, she expected to figure out how to pay for it herself. She attempted to set cash to the side, yet got baffled at how little advancement she was making. Then, at that point an educator declared that the state planned to give a school grant to the two top understudies from her year. It was her brilliant chance. 

"I began doing everything so I would be at the top," West says. "Furthermore, sufficiently sure, when I moved on from secondary school, I got one." The grant permitted West to go to Virginia State College, a verifiably black college. 

She didn't have a lot of time to celebrate. While her educational cost was paid, she required cash for food and lodging. Her folks could help for the principal year, however she would have to discover subsidizing for the others. She trusted in her maths instructor who, in the wake of seeing her latent capacity, extended to her low maintenance employment opportunity looking after children. 

She immediately discovered that, while she had been the awesome her country school, she needed to place in work to stay aware of understudies from greater urban communities. "I was devoted to such an extent that I couldn't have cared less about missing the good times. However, presently I think back and I ought to have," she says prior to chuckling. 

She chose to study math since it's anything but a very much regarded subject. It was to a great extent concentrated by men, yet she didn't take a lot of notice of them. "I knew somewhere down in my heart that nothing was holding me up." 

Subsequent to graduating, she turned into an educator, setting aside cash for graduate school. She got back to the college a couple of years after the fact and acquired an expert's in arithmetic. She momentarily took on another showing position subsequent to graduating. Then, at that point she was extended to an employment opportunity at a maritime base in Dahlgren, Virginia. This made her lone the second black lady to be recruited to function as a software engineer at the base. What's more, she was one of just four black workers. 

At the point when she began her work, the naval force was getting PCs. She was recruited to do programming and coding for the tremendous machines. She felt pleased that she landed the position, yet realized the difficult work had recently started. Regardless of her scholarly capacities and vocation achievement, West had since a long time ago grappled with the inclination that she was mediocre. It was this inclination, profoundly imbued and felt, she thinks, by numerous African Americans, that drove her to function as hard as possible. 

She actually recollects her first day. The army installation was dim, and individuals were blending prior to beginning work, giggling and drinking espresso. She met the one who might turn into her significant other, Ira West – yet would not be occupied and from the start to a great extent overlooked him. "I just arrived and I was a genuine lady. I didn't have the opportunity to mess about," she says. 

Her white partners were amicable and deferential, however at first didn't associate with her external the workplace – something she made an effort not to let get to her. "You know how you realize something like that is going on, however you will not allow it to exploit you? I began to contemplate internally that I'll be a good example as the black me, as West, to be all that I can be, taking care of my job and getting recognition for my work," she says. 

The maritime base was its own reality, so it felt detaching now and again. While West's office was not racially isolated, a wild social liberties fight was unfurling the nation over, especially in the south, halfway zeroing in on isolation. Outside the base, there were demonstrations to integrate eateries and spots of transport. Her companions from school were profoundly included. West and her significant other "upheld what they were doing … and kept our eyes on the thing was creating". 

West was clashed. She upheld the serene fights, yet was informed that she was unable to take an interest due to her administration work. So she chose to zero in on a calmer upset, one she could proceed inside the base. She visited the exhibitions and returned resolved to concede to her work. She trusted that, by doing it as well as could be expected, she could work on the disgrace black individuals confronted. "They hadn't worked with us, they don't know [black people] but to work in the homes and yards, thus you gotta show them who you truly are," she clarifies. "We attempted to do our part by being a good example as a black individual: be conscious, tackle your job and contribute while this is going on." 

West did exactly that. She immediately climbed the positions and acquired the reverence and regard of her partners. The work was hard and she needed to manage enormous datasets. "You must be specific. You can become familiar with the cycle, yet then you need to truly ensure you make the interaction on the money, so everything would come out good," she says. 

At the house that she and her better half worked somewhere in the range of 1976 and 1979. 

In the mid 60s, West partook in an honor winning examination that demonstrated "the routineness of Pluto's movement comparative with Neptune", as indicated by a 2018 official statement by the US aviation based armed forces. In 1979, she got an honor for her persistent effort from her departmental head. She then, at that point became project administrator for the Seasat radar altimetry project; Seasat was the principal satellite that could screen the seas. She directed a group of five individuals. She modified an IBM 7030 Stretch PC, which was essentially quicker than different machines at that point, to give estimations to a precise geodetic Earth model. This nitty gritty numerical model of the state of the Earth was a structure block for what might turn into the GPS circle. 

While her group laid the basis for GPS, West accepted each open door the base gave her. She went to classes in the evening and acquired another graduate degree in policy management, this time from the University of Oklahoma. 

In 1998, matured 68, in the wake of going through over forty years at the base, West realized the time had come to resign, however she was frightened at the possibility of not working. So after retirement she expected to zero in on her PhD. In any case, then, at that point she suffered a heart attack. 

"I was simply staying there chipping away at the PC and out of nowhere I began twirling around," West says. When she left emergency clinic, she began chipping away at her recuperation. "I never halted one second to feel frustrated about myself and say: 'Goody gumdrops, I'd never make it.' I just said: 'What's next?'" 

She would ultimately complete her exposition and gain her PhD in policy implementation and strategy undertakings in 2000 at 70 years old. 

Thinking back, West says she didn't realize she was changing innovation across the world. "You never believe that anything you are doing militarily will be that energizing. We never contemplated it being moved to regular citizen life, so that was a charming astonishment." 

West's commitments went unnoticed without help from anyone else, yet others as well. Her 42-year vocation at the naval force base was to a great extent unremarked. Yet, a long time later, she sent a short personal history to a sorority work. Amazingly, her sorority sisters were blown away. "I just idea it was my work, and we'd never converse with our companions about work. I just never considered the big picture. I didn't boast about what I was really going after," West says. "In any case, to see others so amped up for it, that was astonishing." 

Her sorority sisters weren't the ones in particular that were energized. West before long began to get recognition as one of the "covered up figures" for her commitment to the advancement of GPS. In 2018, West was accepted into the US flying corps corridor of distinction. Her work has finally been composed into history. She knows it's an accomplishment that is uncommon for black ladies. 

"We generally get pushed to the back on the grounds that we are not normally the ones that are composing the book of the past. It was consistently them composing and they expounded on individuals they thought were worthy. Furthermore, presently we're getting somewhat more longing to pull up every other person that is had an effect." 

At the point when West watched the film Hidden Figures, a dramatization about a triplet of African American female mathematicians working for Nasa, she at last felt seen. "I truly adored the film and I didn't realize that that was going on with them. Yet, they were accomplishing something almost identical," she says. It caused her to acknowledge there were most likely many secret gatherings of black ladies making significant logical commitments across the world. 

"I felt pleased with myself as a lady, realizing that I can do what I can do. In any case, as a black lady, that is another level where you need to demonstrate to a general public that hasn't acknowledged you for what you are. What I did was continue to attempt to demonstrate that I was on par with what you are," she said. "There is no distinction in the work we can do." 

She is keen to every one of the dissidents that have met up in recent months to walk for Black Lives Matter. “I’m hoping that, from that, we become better people, closer to the reality of who we really are, and the world becomes more united than it is now,” West says.

She hopes the call for justice on the street translates into concrete proposals that support more women and black people in science and mathematics. She wants more to be done to encourage underrepresented groups through scholarships and tailored training programmes.

But while West is incredibly proud of the work she did in helping develop GPS, she doesn’t use it herself – preferring to stick to paper maps. “I’m a doer, hands-on kind of person. If I can see the road and see where it turns and see where it went, I am more sure.”


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Dinwiddie County Gladys West Global Positioning System Navstar GPS Virginia


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