Create the Future: An Engineering Podcast

The Mathematics Behind GPS: Dr Gladys West

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Episode notes

Dr Gladys West is a pioneer in the use of complex mathematics and efficient programming to generate accurate, repeatable and global models of the Earth’s geoid that were eventually incorporated into the mapping functions of the Global Positioning System (GPS). This work required her to process early satellite data and use complex algorithms to account for variations in gravitational, tidal, and other forces that distort Earth's shape.

In this episode of Create the Future, we speak with Dr West about the methods she employed to calculate an accurate geodetic earth model using a room-sized computer. We discuss her early career, hear what it meant to be awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Prince Philip Medal in 2021, touch on her continued passion for education, and ask whether she uses GPS today.

To hear more about the engineering behind the Global Positioning System, check out our episode with the winners of the 2019 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

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