What makes modern-day online maps so accurate is the Global Positioning System or GPS. In fact, a lot of apps rely on GPS technology to function—from augmented reality (AR) apps like Pokemon Go to golf-related GPS apps. It’s a marvelous invention that has changed the way we navigate and explore our world.
The invention of this technology can be credited to many people over the course of its development and perfection. Roger L. Easton, Bradford Parkinson, Ivan Getting, and Gladys West are the four most prominent names in terms of GPS technology. While each of them had their own unique contributions, they were united in their common goal.
Let us discuss how each of these four pioneers contributed to the creation of this crucial technology.
Roger L. Easton
The brains behind GPS technology was Roger Easton, former head of the Naval Research Laboratory’s Space Applications Branch. A cold war era scientist, Roger Easton worked on new technology to track Soviet satellites like Sputnik before pioneering a time-based navigational concept called TIMATION.
TIMATION utilized passive ranging and synchronized clocks orbiting the Earth in circular orbits. Even today, these features are vital for any modern-day navigation system, including GPS.
Dr. Ivan Getting is credited for presenting the concept of using advanced satellite systems to provide highly accurate positioning data. This data could be used by both cars and missiles alike, which was a truly unique accomplishment at the time.
Dr. Getting was the founding president of The Aerospace Corporation and was recognized by the American National Academy of Engineering with an award in 2003. His work on GPS has been credited as being key to its development and operations since its inception in 1973.
Bradford Parkinson was the mastermind behind the NAVSTAR GPS between 1972 and 1978. His introduction depicted in the Inventors Hall of Fame goes on to say “as the program’s first manager, he has been the chief architect of GPS throughout its conception and engineering development.”
Dr. Gladys West
Dr. Gladys West worked at the United States Naval Weapons Laboratory for a long time and then went on to pioneer GPS technology. Dr. West started her career as a mathematician in 1956 when the world was still recovering from the devastation of World War II.
At that time, there were still no real rivals to US dominance in the world and even then Dr. West’s lab was doing great work during the space race.
Dr. Gladys and her team led the construction of a surveillance center for the tracking of satellites until 2004 when eventually the Air Force took over. Dr. West was instrumental in the creation of hi-tech devices such as satellite radios and the discovery of geostationary orbits.
Now you know who you have to thank every time you stray off the road and end up in the middle of nowhere, or are visiting a new city and trying to find your way around.
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