Category: Technology

Retired Mathematician Gladys West is One of the People to Thank for the Development of GPS

In a Jan. 19, 2018 photo, Gladys West and her husband Ira West stand in their home in King George, Va. West was part of the team that developed the Global Positioning System in the 1950s and 1960s. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP)

byCathy Dyson, The (Fredericksburg, Va.) Free Lance-Star/AP via

Gladys West was putting together a short bio about herself for a sorority function that recognized senior members of the group.

She noted her 42-year career at the Navy base at Dahlgren and devoted one short-and-sweet line to the fact she was part of the team that developed the Global Positioning System in the 1950s and 1960s.

Fellow Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority member Gwen James was blown away by the statement. The two had known each other for more than 15 years, and James had no idea that the soft-spoken and sharp-minded West played such a “pivotal role” in a technology that’s become a household word.

“GPS has changed the lives of everyone forever,” James said. “There is not a segment of this global society — military, auto industry, cell phone industry, social media, parents, NASA, etc. — that does not utilize the Global Positioning System.”

The revelation that her 87-year-old sorority sister was one of the “Hidden Figures” behind GPS motivated James to share it with the world. “I think her story is amazing,” James added.

West, who lives in King George County, VA, admits she had no idea at the time — when she was recording satellite locations and doing accompanying calculations — that her work would affect so many. “When you’re working every day, you’re not thinking, ‘What impact is this going to have on the world?’ You’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this right.’ ”

 And get it right she did, according to those who worked with her or heard about her.

In a 2017 message about Black History Month, Capt. Godfrey Weekes, then-commanding officer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, described the “integral role” played by West.

“She rose through the ranks, worked on the satellite geodesy (science that measures the size and shape of Earth) and contributed to the accuracy of GPS and the measurement of satellite data,” he wrote. “As Gladys West started her career as a mathematician at Dahlgren in 1956, she likely had no idea that her work would impact the world for decades to come.”

As a girl growing up in Dinwiddie County south of Richmond, all Gladys Mae Brown knew was that she didn’t want to work in the fields, picking tobacco, corn and cotton, or in a nearby factory, beating tobacco leaves into pieces small enough for cigarettes and pipes, as her parents did. “I realized I had to get an education to get out,” she said.

When she learned that the valedictorian and salutatorian from her high school would earn a scholarship to Virginia State College (now University), she studied hard and graduated at the top of her class. She got her free ticket to college, majored in math and taught two years in Sussex County before she went back to school for her master’s degree.

She sought jobs where she could apply her skills and eventually got a call from the Dahlgren base, then known as the Naval Proving Ground and now called Naval Support Facility Dahlgren. “That’s when life really started,” she said.

Continue reading “Retired Mathematician Gladys West is One of the People to Thank for the Development of GPS”

Black Women In Politics Database Could Help More Black Women Get Elected In 2018

25th January 1972: US Representative Shirley Chisholm of Brooklyn announces her entry for Democratic nomination for the presidency, at the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York. Manhattan borough president Percy Sutton applauds at right. (Photo by Don Hogan Charles/New York Times Co./Getty Images)

by Princess-India Alexander via

After one of the most contentious Senate races in recent memory, Democrat Doug Jones defeated opponent Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual misconduct by nine women, in Alabama’s special election in December. Black women were the ones to make it happen.

They out-voted all other demographics that day, with 98 percent of black women casting a vote for Jones. In contrast, 63 percent of white women who voted did so for Moore.

“America got one more confirmation that Black women are superheroes who save the day time and time again,” wrote Luvvie Ajayi, author of I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual on her blog after the election. “I am tired of the world being run into the ground by white men who prove time and time again that they are ill-equipped.”

Ajayi was inspired to find a list of black women politicians she could support. Not finding any, she enlisted the help of three friends to create Black Women in Politics, a living document of black female candidates seeking election in 2018. It’s now an online database that includes more than 400 names.

To start, Ajayi, along with friends Sili RecioLucrecer Braxton and Candace Jones, searched through Twitter mentions, polls and did some old-fashioned googling, gathering more than 100 names of women seeking election in 2018.

The list doubled in under a month, and its creators enlisted the help of a coder to help them turn it into a searchable database. They ultimately moved the database from Ajayi’s personal website to its own domain,

Black women vote in higher numbers than any other demographic, yet are underrepresented in political positions of power. The site’s mission statement explains why the database is so crucial.

“There are Black women running for political office all over the United States, and we need to know who they are,” it reads. “It is abundantly clear that we need to start following the lead of Black women, because we show up and do what is important, even when we are being disenfranchised and sabotaged from doing the work.”

As of Jan. 25, the database has 414 entries. Visitors can filter the candidates by searching for women running for federal seats, state seats and local seats. They can also choose to view candidates running specifically in blue or red states. There’s a section detailing which candidates are incumbents and which are challengers, as well as a page where where users can suggest more politicians to be added.

The database includes a disclaimer noting it is not an endorsement of every woman running. “Think about it as a phone book,” the site states.

American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault to Join Facebook, 1st African-American to Sit on FB’s Board of Directors

NEW YORK, NY: Kenneth I. Chenault speaks onstage at The New York Times 2017 DealBook Conference at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times)

by , via

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook has named one of the nation’s most prominent black corporate leaders, American ExpressKenneth Chenault, to its board of directors.

The appointment, which gives the social media giant the guidance of a highly regarded finance executive and the first black director on its all-white board, was the culmination of years of recruitment efforts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. “I’ve been trying to recruit Ken for years. He has unique expertise in areas I believe Facebook needs to learn and improve — customer service, direct commerce, and building a trusted brand,”  Zuckerberg said in a statement. “Ken also has a strong sense of social mission and the perspective that comes from running an important public company for decades.”

Chenault announced in October that he would retire as chairman and CEO of American Express on Feb. 1, capping a 16-year run.

Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg told the Congressional Black Caucus in October that the social media giant was in talks to bring aboard its first black board member but she did not disclose the person’s identity.

The striking lack of people of color in the executive suite and on the boards of Silicon Valley companies won’t come as a culture shock to Chenault, one of the longest-serving black CEOs of a major U.S. corporation and a veteran of an industry dominated by white men in its top management ranks. The appointment to the Facebook board, effective Feb. 5, comes after years of lobbying by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson to add people of color to the company’s directors.

Diversity remains a top challenge for Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies that are mostly staffed by white and Asian men. Top universities turn out black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them, USA TODAY research showed.

Minorities are also sharply underrepresented in non-technical jobs such as sales and administration, with African Americans faring noticeably worse than Hispanics, according to USA TODAY analysis of the employment records of Facebook, Google and Yahoo in 2014.

Women now make up 35% of Facebook’s global workforce, up from 33%, and hold 19% of technical roles, up from 17%, the Menlo Park, Calif. company said last year.

In the U.S., Facebook has brought aboard more people of color. Three percent of Facebook workers are African American, up from 2%, and 5% of them are Hispanic, up from 4%.

But Facebook fell short where the lack of diversity is most acute, in the proportion of African-American and Hispanic workers in technical roles, which has stayed flat at 1% and 3% respectively since 2014. The percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in senior leadership positions at Facebook has also remained largely unchanged.

Chenault was the second black Fortune 500 CEO to announce plans to step down in 2017, along with Xerox Corp.’s Ursula Burns. Less than 5% of the 200 largest U.S. companies are led by African Americans, according to a 2016 report from recruitment firm Spencer Stuart.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Chenault, 66, has been with American Express since 1981. He serves on the boards of IBM, Procter & Gamble and non-profit groups including the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. He’s also a philanthropist who took a lead role in raising money for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

When Chenault announced he was stepping down from American Express, Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is the largest AmEx shareholder, said in a statement that he was the “gold standard for corporate leadership and the benchmark that I measure others against.”

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Washington State University Scholar Cornelius Adewlale to be Awarded $100,000 Bullitt Environmental Prize

Cornelius Adewale (photo via


Cornelius Adewale, a doctoral student in the School of the Environment at Washington State University, has been selected to received the Bullitt Environmental Prize from the Bullitt Foundation. The prize, which comes with a $100,000 grant for continued research, is awarded to individuals who have “extraordinary potential to come powerful and effective leaders in the environmental movement.”

A native of Nigeria, Adewale’s research focuses on improving the environmental impact of agriculture. He hopes to develop methods to reduce chemical fertilizers but produce more food.

“Without food in their bellies, people have no time for anything else,” said Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation. “Cornelius is working at the leading edge of research to find ways to produce more food, even as we fight climate change and dramatically reduce the use of pesticides.”

“I am trying to change the way we farm,” said Adewale.


Former NASA Administrator and Astronaut Charles Bolden to Receive 2017 Nierenberg Prize at UC San Diego

Charles Bolden, Former NASA Administrator and Astronaut (Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls via

by Brittany Hook via

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General and former NASA Administrator Charles Frank Bolden Jr. has been selected as recipient of the 2017 Nierenberg Prize.

While many young people dream of becoming a NASA astronaut and exploring space, only a select few actually make this dream a reality. Some seemingly “fall into” this remarkable career path. One of those people is retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General and former NASA Administrator Charles Frank Bolden Jr., who spent 34 years serving in the Marine Corps and 14 years as a NASA astronaut (1980-1994), logging more than 680 hours in space during four space shuttle missions, twice as commander and twice as pilot.

In honor of his remarkable career and lifetime of service to science, his country, and the public, Bolden has been selected as recipient of the 2017 Nierenberg Prize by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. All are invited to attend the award ceremony and a presentation from Bolden in a free event on Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment.

Bolden grew up in the segregated South and overcame great obstacles to become a transformative leader. He is the first African American to serve as NASA Administrator, a position he held from July 2009 to January 2017 which was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. During his time at the helm, Bolden oversaw a new era of exploration with science activities including an unprecedented landing on Mars by the Curiosity rover, launch of a spacecraft to Jupiter, and continued progress toward the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.

UC San Diego News sat down to chat with Bolden about his incredible journey, from his early days in science to space and beyond.

Q: What inspired you to get involved in science?

Charles Bolden: I always liked taking stuff apart and putting it back together, but I think I became seriously involved in seventh grade, in middle school when my seventh-grade science teacher Mr. J.P. Neal not only encouraged but almost mandated us to participate in science fairs in school. I fell in love with it and I never missed a science fair after that.

Q: Have you ever followed up with that teacher to let him know the impact he had on your life?

CB: I periodically see him when I get back home. And I frequently mention him and my seventh-grade math teacher Mr. King Benjamin Lindberg Jeffcoat in my talks when I discuss the people who inspired me and who were responsible for changing my life. Continue reading “Former NASA Administrator and Astronaut Charles Bolden to Receive 2017 Nierenberg Prize at UC San Diego”

Chance The Rapper Partners with Lyft to Raise Funds to Support Chicago Public Schools

Chance the Rapper (photo via

by Tracy Swartz via

The ride-share service Lyft announced Tuesday that passengers can now round up their fare to the next dollar and donate the difference to Chance the Rapper’s fund to support Chicago Public Schools. The New Chance Arts and Literature Fund, devoted to creating and expanding Chicago arts education programs, is the first local organization Lyft is supporting through the “round up and donate” feature.

Lyft will automatically round up each fare for passengers who opt in via the “settings” tab on the Lyft app and choose their charity. The American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity are among the national organizations that have similar partnerships with Lyft, which is headquartered in San Francisco.

Chance the Rapper, born Chancelor Bennett and raised on the South Side of Chicago, announced the creation of the arts and literature fund in March. He said last month that his organization SocialWorks raised $2.2 million to help 20 Chicago public schools. And though his partnership with Lyft is new, the Grammy winner raps about ride-sharing in his song “All Night,” off last year’s “Coloring Book” project: “You should use your phone, call a Uber/ You a goofy if you think I don’t know you need a Lyft.”

To donate directly to the New Chance Arts and Literature Fund, click here.

Source: Lyft announces partnership with Chance the Rapper to support CPS – Chicago Tribune

Katherine G. Johnson Computational Facility Opens at NASA Langley Research Center

NASA Legend Katherine Johnson with Dr. Yvonne Cagle (photo by Megan Shinn via


HAMPTON, Va. (WVEC) — An American treasure is being honored in Hampton. A new facility at the NASA Langley Research Center is named after Katherine Johnson. She’s the woman featured in the movie “Hidden Figures” for her inspiring work at NASA Langley. People knew the mathematician as a “human computer” who calculated America’s first space flights in the 1960s. “I liked what I was doing, I liked work,” said Katherine.

The 99-year-old worked for NASA at a time when it was extremely difficult for African-Americans — especially women — to get jobs in the science field. “My problem was to answer questions, and I did that to the best of my ability at all time,” said Katherine. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. She said, “I was excited for something new. Always liked something new.” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck, and “Hidden Figures” author Margot Lee Shetterly were among the dignitaries who were on hand to honor Johnson.

Governor McAuliffe said, “Thank goodness for the movie and the book that actually came out and people got to understand what this woman meant to our county. I mean she really broke down the barriers.” The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility (CRF) is a $23 million, 37,000-square-foot energy efficient structure that consolidates five Langley data centers and more than 30 server rooms. One NASA astronaut, Doctor Yvonne Cagle, said Katherine is the reason she is an astronaut today. “This is remarkable, I mean it really shows that when you make substantive contributions like this, that resonate both on and off the planet. There’s no time like the present.” Doctor Cagle said she’s excited the new building is named after Katherine. “Thank you all, thank everyone for recognizing and bringing to light this beautiful hidden figure,” said Cagle.

The facility will enhance NASA’s efforts in modeling and simulation, big data, and analysis. Much of the work now done by wind tunnels eventually will be performed by computers like those at the CRF. NASA Deputy Director of Center Operations, Erik Weiser said, this new facility will help them with their anticipated Mars landing in 2020.

Source: NASA legend Katherine Johnson honored in Hampton |

The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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