Dr. Gladys West

Have you ever used (or seen an adult use) Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze, or any type of GPS/navigation app on the phone? Have you ever heard someone say, “Let me put that in my GPS really quick” when trying to get directions? Did you know that GPS is a system that a black woman mathematician helped invent? 

"I could see very clearly that there were obstacles in front of me and I had to get through these obstacles... But I didn't let that stop me. I just kept striving."

Quick Facts

Featured in: Road Trippin (July 2019)

Current Role: Retired Mathematician


  • Bachelor of Science in Mathematics & Master of Science in Mathematics at Virginia State College (now Virginia State University)
  • Master of Arts in Public Administration at the University of Oklahoma
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration at Virginia Tech

Her husband, Ira West, of 60 years, her children and grandchildren, and of course, MATH!

In our July 2019 – Road Trippin box, Dr. Gladys West tells us about how math contributed to the GPS, why she chose to study math, and what about it appealed to her. She talks about what it is like being recognized on an international level, being inducted into the Air Force Space & Mission Pioneers Hall of Fame, and why it is important for girls to have a strong foundation in math.

Black Girl MATHgic Exclusive Interview Preview

“It's just amazing. I went to a celebration in my home state, Virginia, and when it was over, there were just so many people all around me.”

Check out our July 2019 – Road Trippin box to see Dr. Gladys West’s FULL interview!