Gladys West, the ‘hidden figure’ of GPS, inducted into Air Force hall of fame

Air Force Space Command/Adrian Cadiz

Dr. Gladys West, a mathematician and one of the so-called “Hidden Figures” who was lesser known for her contributions to inventing GPS, has been inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame.

A ceremony was held in West’s honor at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, a local CBS affiliate reported on Tuesday. The induction is one of the Air Force’s Space Commands highest honors. 

West worked among a small group of women on computing for the U.S. military in the 1950s and 1960s, just before the era when the military began to usher in a wave of electronic systems, according to a news release from the Air Force Space Command Public Affairs office. That group was later depicted in the movie “Hidden Figures.”

{mosads}West began working at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory as a mathematician in 1956, where she also participated in an award-winning study that proved “the regularity of Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune” in the early 1960s, according to the release.

That’s where West also programmed an IBM 7030 “Stretch” computer that delivered refined calculations for an “extremely accurate geodetic Earth model, a geoid, optimized” for what would eventually become known across the world as the Global Positioning System (GPS) orbit, the release also states.

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