May 23, 2024

Great Lives to Feature GPS Technology Pioneer Gladys West

Growing up in King George County, Carolyn West Oglesby ’83 didn’t really think about what her parents did all day at work. She just knew that Gladys and Ira West were civilian mathematicians at the naval base at Dahlgren, where the family lived and she and her two brothers attended school.

Gladys West is pictured at a ceremony during which she was honored.

Gladys West is pictured at a ceremony during which she was honored.

It wasn’t until long after Oglesby had earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Mary Washington, established her own career, and completed her master’s and doctoral degrees that she learned the true significance of her mother’s work. Gladys West’s efforts with the military, using satellites to map the world, were foundational to the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS).

The life and work of Gladys West, and her contributions to what would eventually become an essential everyday navigational tool, are the focus of the William B. Crawley Great Lives lecture at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Dodd Auditorium of George Washington Hall.

Main speaker Karen Sherry, curator at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, will present biographical information about West, and Oglesby will be part of a panel answering questions about her mother. Additional panelists are Marvin Jackson, who worked with West to write her autobiography, It Began With a Dream; and Alan Dean, a UMW adjunct instructor, Dahlgren retiree and former colleague of Ira West. Read more.