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Great Lives: Gladys West

February 2 @ 7:30 pm

Gladys West, Technology Pioneer

Lecture Date: February 2, 2023

The Irene and Curry Roberts Lecture

Would you imagine that a young Black girl growing up in rural Virginia during the Jim Crow era would go on transform our world? This is the story of Dr. Gladys West (b. 1930), a mathematician who helped develop GPS technology while working at the Dahlgren Naval Surface Weapons Center for more than 40 years. Like many “hidden figures” in the defense and aerospace industries, West had to overcome the prevailing racism and sexism of the day, and her contributions went largely unrecognized until recently.

When Dr. West arrived at Dahlgren in 1956, she was only one of four African Americans at the lab, and only the second woman. Specializing in the field of satellite geodesy—the science of measuring the shape and size of the earth from space—she created algorithms and programs for analyzing satellite data using early super computers. Her work contributed to numerous projects, including GPS and SEASAT, the first satellite to map oceans from space. As one of her colleagues noted, “Her competence, not her color, defined her.”

This panel conversation will explore the life and legacy of Dr. West, from her determined pursuit of education, through her distinguished career at Dahlgren, to her continuing efforts to inspire young STEM students.

Details

Date:
February 2
Time:
7:30 pm
Event Categories:
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Event Tags:
Website:
https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/

Organizer

University of Mary Washington
Phone:
540-654-1553
Email:
shampton@umw.edu

Venue

Dodd Auditorium
1301 College Avenue
Fredericksburg, VA 22401 Select a Country:
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Phone:
5406541044