Affirmative Action in Inventions

 

Last June, I attended my monthly nonfiction writers meeting. Afterward, I spoke to the black gentleman sitting next to me. He mentioned that he’d just found out that a black woman invented GPS. I said that was strange since my father invented it. He chuckled and said that I was holding out on him. I looked it up and a Dr. Gladys West was the person. It appears that she worked on refining satellite orbits and models of the earth. She did valuable work but is one of hundreds or thousands of people at that level. I dismissed it; errors about the origins of GPS are rife and in spite of my extensive writings about it I’m a relatively obscure person.

More recently, the articles about Dr. West have multiplied and an unrelated erroneous documentary about the origins of GPS was released.

Yes, the contributions of women and minorities have sometimes been ignored. But the reverse is starting to become the case. GPS was created in 1973. The major issues were the orbits, how time is transmitted to the receiver, and the nature of the signal. The first two came from my Dad’s Timation system. The last came from the AF/Aerospace system. Dr. West played no role in these decisions. She worked on interpreting data from spacetracking systems. My Dad designed two spacetracking systems. The order of priority should be clear.

This week, I was contacted by an Aerospace executive who started working on GPS in the late 1970s. His story of the origins of GPS differs greatly from that propounded by Parkinson and he scoffed at the award which was announced this week.

He said that, as far as he could tell, one of the execs at the Navy Lab where she worked was upset that no women were listed in their hall of fame. Thus, the story was propounded that this was another hidden figure. But it’s not true. She did good work but was not involved in the design or invention of GPS. Of course, most of the people writing these types of stories know nothing about it. Even well-regarded people like Simon Winchester get tons of details wrong.

These types of myths are infecting Wikipedia. Black women have done wonderful things, but inventing GPS is not among their lists of accomplishments. Another example of this myth follows. I responded and definitely did not convince at least one person.

.

There are 29 comments.

  1. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    A hundred-mile-an-hour narrative can plow through quite a lot of solid facts before coming to a halt. 

    • #1
    • February 15, 2019, at 8:40 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  2. drlorentz Member

    The same thing happened with the film Hidden Figures, which greatly exaggerates the role of several black women in the Apollo program. Jack Crenshaw, one of the engineers who designed the Apollo trajectory to the moon. An excerpt from his blog:

    From what I can gather, it’s [the film] a very different story, and absolutely _DOES_ seem to claim that these three women saved the space program. It also, I’m told, portrays all the white guys as incompetent nincompoops.

    THAT, I can tell you, is absolutely false. The NASA engineers of that era were the most hard-working and competent engineers I’ve met anywhere, at any time. And I’ve met a bunch.

    Someone else here pointed out that the black actors in the movie are portraying real people, while the “white guys” are all “composite figures” with fictitious names. There’s a reason for that: the real white guys refused to let themselves be portrayed the way the producers wanted to. That should tell you what’s going on.

    He does credit the women portrayed in book, upon which the film is loosely based, with having carefully done some complex mathematical calculations. But they were, literally, “computers.”

    Revisionist history is big these days but it’s not new. Stalin, among others, was also into it.

    • #2
    • February 15, 2019, at 9:42 PM PDT
    • 26 likes
  3. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    The same thing happened with the film Hidden Figures, which greatly exaggerates the role of several black women in the Apollo program. Jack Crenshaw, one of the engineers who designed the Apollo trajectory to the moon. An excerpt from his blog:

    From what I can gather, it’s [the film] a very different story, and absolutely _DOES_ seem to claim that these three women saved the space program. It also, I’m told, portrays all the white guys as incompetent nincompoops.

    THAT, I can tell you, is absolutely false. The NASA engineers of that era were the most hard-working and competent engineers I’ve met anywhere, at any time. And I’ve met a bunch.

    Someone else here pointed out that the black actors in the movie are portraying real people, while the “white guys” are all “composite figures” with fictitious names. There’s a reason for that: the real white guys refused to let themselves be portrayed the way the producers wanted to. That should tell you what’s going on.

    He does credit the women portrayed in book, upon which the film is loosely based, with having carefully done some complex mathematical calculations. But they were, literally, “computers.”

    Revisionist history is big these days but it’s not new. Stalin, among others, was also into it.

    That’s not a very nice thing to say about the guy who invented the internet. 

    • #3
    • February 15, 2019, at 9:54 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  4. DonG Coolidge

    Most inventions are just refinements of previous inventions. That’s OK–incremental is just as good as leaps in the long run. There was probably a ground based positioning system before there was a satellite one. There was probably an analog one before there was a digital one. Fame and glory should not last more than a lifetime.

    • #4
    • February 15, 2019, at 10:24 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. Doctor Robert Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    He does credit the women portrayed in book, upon which the film is loosely based, with having carefully done some complex mathematical calculations. But they were, literally, “computers.”

    Revisionist history is big these days but it’s not new. Stalin, among others, was also into it.

    That’s not a very nice thing to say about the guy who invented the internet. 

    No one’s talking about Al Gore here.

    • #5
    • February 15, 2019, at 10:25 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. Richard Easton Member
    Richard Easton Post author

    The Timation Development Plan, published in March 1971, posits a navigation system with:

    1. 27 satellites in 8 hour circular orbits at 55 degrees of inclination (appendix had 24 satellites if atomic clocks were available).

    2. Accurate clocks would transmit time to the receivers. 4 satellites would provide 3D position.

    3. Ground stations in the U.S. or secure U.S. territories would update the satellite clocks and predications of the satellite’s orbit (Dr. West was one of many people contributing to the orbit prediction based on information provided by spacetracking systems such as the Naval Space Surveillance System invented by my Dad).

    4. The satellites would transmit using both spread spectrum and side-tone ranging signals.

    A comprehensive testing procedure was envisioned. Two Timation satellites had been built and another one was on the way (renamed NTS-1, it was launched in 1974 and carried the first atomic clock into orbit). The plan is here:

    http://www.gpsdeclassified.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/NRL-7227-Timation-Development-Plan.pdf

    The first formulations of GPS were similar to this plan. Later, the system was changed to six planes rather than three ( and the number of satellites, originally 24, is now around 31).

    This is what an inventor produces. No such documents from Dr. West have been provided since none exist. She was not inventing anything; she was doing good work on one aspect of GPS.

    • #6
    • February 16, 2019, at 4:34 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  7. Richard Easton Member
    Richard Easton Post author

    The media is pushing this narrative hard.

    https://news.yahoo.com/men-behind-gps-just-won-181351447.html

    The real question is why no one from the Navy was included in the honorees when GPS stems largely from a Navy system. But that doesn’t fit in the race/sex grid they’re using.

     

    • #7
    • February 16, 2019, at 5:00 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  8. Poindexter Member

    DonG (View Comment):
    There was probably a ground based positioning system before there was a satellite one. There was probably an analog one before there was a digital one.

    Yep. LORAN.

    • #8
    • February 16, 2019, at 6:16 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Stad Thatcher

    Watch for the movie to show up the next few years . . .

    • #9
    • February 16, 2019, at 6:24 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Barfly Member

    The more one has competence in any objective skill, or for that matter deep factual knowledge on any topic, the wider the gulf one will find between the truth and the public narrative constructed and maintained by the left.

    There is no overarching conspiracy, it’s just that people of the left value the content of their mind over the external reality.

    • #10
    • February 16, 2019, at 8:06 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  11. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    Look, blacks, womeyn, other minorities have created every major item made by mankind. It was only evil white people that exploited those inventions. History is currently being discovered to emphasize this truth. To say otherwise will soon be considered an act of hate and eventually sanctioned.

    • #11
    • February 16, 2019, at 8:56 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Tex929rr Coolidge

    TBA (View Comment):

    A hundred-mile-an-hour narrative can plow through quite a lot of solid facts before coming to a halt.

    Correct, except for the coming to a halt part.

    • #12
    • February 16, 2019, at 9:12 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    I have learned a lot from you on GPS!

    I have to say this is really sad, but it keeps happening. I know people who actually believe Egypt was populated by blacks and some had wings. 

     

    • #13
    • February 16, 2019, at 10:51 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. James Gawron Thatcher

    Richard,

    The left bases its beliefs on wishful thinking, not critical thinking. This means that the values of society are relentlessly undermined and corrupted. People don’t think what happens in the philosophy department matters. However, the philosophy department kicked the deconstructionist loons out. It was the English department that gave them a home. After all, when you are only writing fiction what does it matter if you believe that facts don’t matter. As long as the story sells what’s the difference it’s fiction!

    Unfortunately, although fiction has its place it can’t be the standard of epistemology for the rest of society. Not only the philosophy department but the whole university system has been corrupted. It must be taken back and critical thinking restored. For the moment, expect to see endless more examples of wishful thinking. If enough of them get exposed we may finally see a backlash. Halleluyah.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #14
    • February 16, 2019, at 7:59 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Eugene Kriegsmann Member

    It could well be that Dr. Gladys West “feels” she invented GPS. We all know that leftists are far more concerned about how things feel than how they actually are. Therefore, if she feels that way, then it must be so. SAD! to quote the President.

    • #15
    • February 17, 2019, at 5:42 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  16. Robert E. Lee Member

    If you need an example of government sponsored revisionist history, just ask anyone about the War of Northern Aggression.

    • #16
    • February 17, 2019, at 8:15 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. Vance Richards Member

    Interesting. But what about self-service gas stations?

    https://youtu.be/eljjUGb14So

    • #17
    • February 17, 2019, at 12:46 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    Robert E. Lee (View Comment):

    If you need an example of government sponsored revisionist history, just ask anyone about the War of Northern Aggression.

    Or as I call it, the War for Southern Independence.

    • #18
    • February 17, 2019, at 3:14 PM PDT
    • Like
  19. Vance Richards Member

    Richard Easton: women have done wonderful things, but inventing GPS is not among their lists of accomplishments

    That link is interesting. The headline says she “invented GPS” but the article says “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.” 

    Anyway, NJ just made LGBT (etc) History mandatory in schools. Should we expect any embellishments?

    • #19
    • February 17, 2019, at 3:45 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Richard Easton Member
    Richard Easton Post author

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Richard Easton: women have done wonderful things, but inventing GPS is not among their lists of accomplishments

    That link is interesting. The headline says she “invented GPS” but the article says “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.”

    Anyway, NJ just made LGBT (etc) History mandatory in schools. Should we expect any embellishments?

    In the 1960s, I bought a sports magazine. One of the headlined stories on the cover read, “ Willie Mays talks about how he’ll break his September jinx.” The article did not say one word about this. Other reporters, I’m being generous, will read the headline about her inventing GPS and copy it. Most of them would have difficulty guessing which decade in which GPS started. I’ve read some of the private deliberations of the Draper committee which named Parkinson and Getting as co-inventors of GPS. They were an ignorant group. One of the geniuses stated that the decision to put atomic clocks in the satellites was a huge mistake which delayed the system by two to five years. Sigh

    • #20
    • February 17, 2019, at 4:32 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. James Lileks Contributor

    Type “American inventors” into google and see what you get.

    Note: the search results also return some commentary from authors and sites that seem to preemptively discredit questioning the search results. No doubt that’s due to the mysterious alchemy of the High Holy Algorithms, which simply report the number and quality of the inbound links. It does imply that anyone who raises an eyebrow Spock-like at the results might be lumped in with Sailor and Vdare and rest, and I suspect that anyone who brings up the “American inventors” / google results issue is regarded as problematic.

    Is it too much to want everyone’s story to be told, with kudos and admiration and gratitude and a full accounting of all the trials they faced, without being required to take sides first? 

    • #21
    • February 17, 2019, at 10:29 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Richard Easton Member
    Richard Easton Post author

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Is it too much to want everyone’s story to be told, with kudos and admiration and gratitude and a full accounting of all the trials they faced, without being required to take sides first?

    The problem is that prominent people have been making assertions for decades about GPS which aren’t correct. Take the example of Dr. Brad Parkinson. He is often called the father of GPS (I disagree). He was one of four people who shared last week the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for GPS. He has claimed for a long time that GPS was invented at the Lonely Halls meeting at the Pentagon over Labor Day 1973. “Roger was not present at the “Lonely Halls” meeting of 1973, when we decided what GPS was to be.” A documentary was released last fall making a similar assertion (probably paid for by Parkinson). I have pointed out major holes in the story here and here.

    Similarly, Parkinson has asserted since at least 1983 that my Dad’s system, Timation, was two dimensional. “His method was obviously two dimensional (called for “Lines of Position”). ” He has stated this many other times (I can provide many more references). If you review the Timation documents on my website, you will find loads of references to it’s being 3D. Here’s a chart from the Timation Development Plan. Four Timation satellites are sending signals to an airplane providing its 3D position. See especially pages 9-10 here.

    We also have a 1974 document signed off by Parkinson which states on 1-1 (page 7 of pdf) that Timation was 3D. Primary source materials tell a very different tale from what is being asserted today about GPS. I could give many more examples of this. Unfortunately, reporters tend to accept uncritically statements from people like Parkinson.

    • #22
    • February 18, 2019, at 10:50 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  23. ctlaw Coolidge

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Is it too much to want everyone’s story to be told, with kudos and admiration and gratitude and a full accounting of all the trials they faced, without being required to take sides first?

    The problem is that prominent people have been making assertions for decades about GPS which aren’t correct. Take the example of Dr. Brad Parkinson. He is often called the father of GPS (I disagree). He was one of four people who shared last week the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for GPS. He has claimed for a long time that GPS was invented at the Lonely Halls meeting at the Pentagon over Labor Day 1973. “Roger was not present at the “Lonely Halls” meeting of 1973, when we decided what GPS was to be.” A documentary was released last fall making a similar assertion (probably paid for by Parkinson). I have pointed out major holes in the story here and here.

    Similarly, Parkinson has asserted since at least 1983 that my Dad’s system, Timation, was two dimensional. “His method was obviously two dimensional (called for “Lines of Position”). ” He has stated this many other times (I can provide many more references). If you review the Timation documents on my website, you will loads of references to it’s being 3D. Here’s a chart from the Timation Development Plan. Four Timation satellites are sending signals to an airplane providing its 3D position. See especially page 9-10 here.

    We also have a 1974 document signed off by Parkinson which states on 1-1 (page 7 of pdf) that Timation was 3D. Primary source materials tell a very different tale from what is being asserted today about GPS. I could give many more examples of this.

     

    Keep it simple Richard. For example just say:

    Note page 10, paragraph 2 of this 1971 document referencing “latitude, longitude, altitude, and time.” http://www.gpsdeclassified.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/NRL-7227-Timation-Development-Plan.pdf

     

     

    • #23
    • February 18, 2019, at 11:02 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Is it too much to want everyone’s story to be told, with kudos and admiration and gratitude and a full accounting of all the trials they faced, without being required to take sides first?

    The problem is that prominent people have been making assertions for decades about GPS which aren’t correct. Take the example of Dr. Brad Parkinson. He is often called the father of GPS (I disagree). He was one of four people who shared last week the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for GPS. He has claimed for a long time that GPS was invented at the Lonely Halls meeting at the Pentagon over Labor Day 1973. “Roger was not present at the “Lonely Halls” meeting of 1973, when we decided what GPS was to be.” A documentary was released last fall making a similar assertion (probably paid for by Parkinson). I have pointed out major holes in the story here and here.

    Similarly, Parkinson has asserted since at least 1983 that my Dad’s system, Timation, was two dimensional. “His method was obviously two dimensional (called for “Lines of Position”). ” He has stated this many other times (I can provide many more references). If you review the Timation documents on my website, you will loads of references to it’s being 3D. Here’s a chart from the Timation Development Plan. Four Timation satellites are sending signals to an airplane providing its 3D position. See especially page 9-10 here.

    We also have a 1974 document signed off by Parkinson which states on 1-1 (page 7 of pdf) that Timation was 3D. Primary source materials tell a very different tale from what is being asserted today about GPS. I could give many more examples of this.

     

    Keep it simple Richard. For example just say:

    Note page 10, paragraph 2 of this 1971 document referencing “latitude, longitude, altitude, and time.” http://www.gpsdeclassified.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/NRL-7227-Timation-Development-Plan.pdf

     

     

    Yes, good advice

    • #24
    • February 18, 2019, at 11:50 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    When a person looks at important inventions in history, quite often one invention is invented by two different people.

    Saint Exupery, the French philosopher and writer made fun of this situation in his book “The Little Prince.” A Fez-topped guy from Turkey invented a needed gizmo, but his English was poor and so the gizmo was ignored and/or ridiculed, until someone with the right attire, decent English dialect and decent connections came forward with the same thing.

    African American women didn’t have the same connections as white men did. It would be interesting to hear from somebody affiliated with Dr Gladys West to see what had gone on from her side of things.

    The occurrence of two simultaneous scientific advancements has popped up several times in my life with people I knew. In one example, back circa 1979, was when I lived in Lisle Illinois and watched a friend work on a music synthesizer. He was making great progress until his boss at Bell Labs told him that another Bell Labs person, a man who was working for Bell Labs New Jersey, was inventing the same identical machinery.

    The two men compared notes and the machines were very similar. I know my friend gave up on the project – music synthesizers were still quite primitive and although it was true that the first one out of the box that was incredible in terms of technology and cheap enough for most in the public to purchase it would make its inventor rich, the matter was a matter of luck in timing. He could develop a machine that was quite good, let’s say a B+ as far as its engineering. But a second synthesizer developed six months later with newer better components might garner an A+ rating – and would knock the original invention to the back of the line. My friend’s lawyer told him it would be better to come up with an inexpensive doo dad, like a Pet Rock, than continue.

    No need to feel sorry for this friend – he went on to develop the USB technology.

    • #25
    • February 19, 2019, at 1:22 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Richard Easton Member
    Richard Easton Post author

    Here’s her induction announcement.

    https://www.afspc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1707464/mathematician-inducted-into-space-and-missiles-pioneers-hall-of-fame/

    • #26
    • February 19, 2019, at 2:14 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Boss Mongo Member

    Richard Easton: Last June, I attended my monthly nonfiction writers meeting.

    Is that like an AA meeting?

    Richard Easton: He said that, as far as he could tell, one of the execs at the Navy Lab where she worked was upset that no women were listed in their hall of fame. Thus, the story was propounded that this was another hidden figure. But it’s not true.

    History will always get shivved in the back by political expediency.

    • #27
    • February 19, 2019, at 7:15 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Richard Easton Member
    Richard Easton Post author

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Richard Easton: Last June, I attended my monthly nonfiction writers meeting.

    Is that like an AA meeting?

    Yes, but there’s no 12 step plan.

    Richard Easton: He said that, as far as he could tell, one of the execs at the Navy Lab where she worked was upset that no women were listed in their hall of fame. Thus, the story was propounded that this was another hidden figure. But it’s not true.

    History will always get shivved in the back by political expediency.

    Yes, and these people are invading STEM.

     

    • #28
    • February 20, 2019, at 8:00 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    “Women and minorities are just as good as men and majorities!” 

    “Well there is certainly evidence that supports – ” 

    “Not good enough. We need something more convincing.” 

    “We could – ”

    “We’re going to pretend really hard.” 

    • #29
    • February 20, 2019, at 9:09 AM PDT
    • 2 likes