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Woman behind GPS inducted into Air Force hall of fame

PICTURED: Gladys West (Photo: Adrian Cadiz/Air Force Space Command)

THE WOMAN behind the creation of the global positioning system GPS has been inducted into the American Air Forces hall of fame.

Gladys west, an 87-year-old mathematician, was inducted into the space and missiles pioneers hall of fame at the end of last year.

The honour, one of the highest that the Air Force Space Command can bestow. sees the hidden figure join an elite group of individuals recognised by the unit.

West, a member of an all black female professionals, worked in computing for the US military before such electronic technology was even available to the public.

She rose to the top of her field despite the restrictions of Jim Crow segregation.

Last year, West’s achievements were highlighted when she was listed as one of the BBC’s 100 women.

The list recognises 100 influential and inspirational women across various fields around the world.

She told the BBC: "I carried that load round, thinking that I had to be the best that I could be.

"Always doing things just right, to set an example for other people who were coming behind me, especially women.

"I strived hard to be tough and hang in there the best I could."

West also spoke about her limited direct involvement in the civil rights movement, which was at its height during the time she was working for the Air Force Space Command.

"It turned out to be somewhat separate for us because we were working for the government and we couldn't do a whole lot of participating in non-government activities off-base," she told the BBC.

"We lived on the base and we didn't communicate too well with the community that was around us.

"We didn't get involved with it [the civil rights movement], partly because it wasn't safe because of the job, to do that,” she added.

Despite her pioneering research, West's story went untold for many years.

In 2016, Hidden Figures, a film starring Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe was released.

It shone a light on the African-American women who worked at NASA and were the brains behind the launch into orbit of astronaut John Glenn.

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