A Black woman who played an integral role in pushing space exploration and technology forward is finally receiving the credit that she deserves. Dr. Gladys West—the mathematician who helped create the Geographical Positioning System—was recently inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame, The Hill reported.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. West did computing for the U.S. military, the news outlet writes. She joined the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory and served as a mathematician during a time where new technological systems were being introduced. She also contributed to groundbreaking studies surrounding different planets.
“She participated in a path-breaking, award-winning astronomical study that proved, during the early 1960s, the regularity of Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune,” read a statement released by the Air Force Space Command. “The Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Award pays tribute to the leaders of the early years of the Air Force space program, as well as the subsequent innovators whose vision and perseverance overcame the obstacles of the unknown, those who transformed the cutting edge of technology into operational systems, and those who dedicated their lives to exploring space in support of our national security concerns.”
The stories of Black women who have made major contributions to STEM are coming to the forefront, and many of them are being honored for their achievements. Their legacies are inspiring the next generation of Black leaders who are interested in the field.
Earlier this year 10-year-old Akosua Haynes, a young Black aspiring astronaut from Chicago, received a huge honor from the Library of Congress after penning a letter to the author of the book that inspired the film Hidden Figures; detailing how the story motivated her. “I really want her to know how much her book inspired me and how it has really motivated me to push my math skills to a much higher level. I have a little STEM program on Saturdays and I’m trying to make myself more like Katherine Johnson every day,” she said.