The month of February is designated as Black History Month to honor African Americans’ victories and challenges and their intellectual, artistic, cultural, and political achievements. As part of Black History Month, the WGIC’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee honors the following six Black Leaders, who have made significant contributions to the geospatial sector.
1. Gladys West, the mathematician who was instrumental in the development of GPS
Gladys Mae West, born October 27, 1930, is an American mathematician best known for her contributions to mathematical modeling of Earth’s shape and the development of satellite geodesy models that were later incorporated into the Global Positioning System (GPS). Dr. Gladys West is known today as the “hidden figure” who helped invent GPS. In 2018, the Virginia General Assembly formally recognized West for her contribution to the development of GPS. That same year, she was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame and named one of the BBC’s 100 Women of 2018, a list honoring inspirational women around the world. West received the Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for her work developing satellite geodesy models at the 25th Annual Webby Awards. Trimble has also established a scholarship program to honor Dr. Gladys West, a pioneer in mathematics, minority advancement, and the advent of the GPS one of our most widely used innovations worldwide.
2. Charles Bolden, former Administrator of NASA
Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr. (USMC-Ret.) was born on August 19, 1946, and is a former astronaut who flew on four Space Shuttle missions. Bolden led a nationwide NASA team in advancing the missions and goals of the US space program. Bolden’s primary focus at NASA was the International Space Station, as well as the advancement of space and aeronautics technology. He also created a Space Technology Mission Directorate to develop cutting-edge technologies for future missions. Bolden has also backed NASA’s efforts to develop cleaner, faster, and quieter planes. Bolden’s dynamic science activities include the first-ever landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, a launch to Jupiter, an expansion of the nation’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites, and progress toward the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope’s successor, in 2018. Among his missions were the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope and the first joint US-Russian shuttle mission with a cosmonaut. Charles Bolden was also instrumental in the launch and support of the SERVIR project, a joint NASA-USAID initiative to assist developing countries in using the information provided by Earth-observing satellites and geospatial technologies to address development issues.
3. Mae Jemison, former NASA astronaut
Mae Jemison, born October 17, 1956, is a former NASA astronaut, engineer, and physician. She was the first African-American woman to set foot in space. In June 1987, Jemison was chosen for the astronaut program. She was the science mission specialist on STS-47 Spacelab-J on her first flight. The mission, a collaboration between the United States and Japan, included 44 life science and materials processing experiments. Jemison was a co-investigator on the mission’s bone cell research experiment. Jemison spent 190 hours, 30 minutes, and 23 seconds in space during her first space flight. Jemison also wrote several children’s books and appeared on television several times, including in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in 1993. She has received several honorary degrees and has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame as well as the International Space Hall of Fame.
4. Dawn Wright, Chief Scientist at Esri
Dawn Jeannine Wright, born April 15, 1961, is a marine geology and geography expert from the United States. She was a pioneer in the use of Geographical Information Science (GIS) for seafloor and ocean mapping, which revolutionized ocean science. Wright is a Chief Scientist at Esri and has taught geography and oceanography at Oregon State University since 1995. Wright was the first African-American woman to dive to the ocean floor in the ALVIN deep submersible. Because of her adventures, oceanographers dubbed her “Deepsea Dawn.” She has published over 150 articles and ten books on marine GIS, hydrothermal activity, mid-ocean ridge tectonics, and data modeling. Wright, as Esri’s Chief Scientist, continues to steer oceanography to new heights. She leads a team of Esri scientists and engineers who are pushing the boundaries of what GIS can do for ocean sciences, with applications for industry, academia, and the general public. She has notably played an important role in Esri’s effort to create a full-volume (3D) ocean map.
5. Lesley-Ann L. Dupigny-Giroux, Climatologist
Dr. Dupigny-Giroux, an applied climatologist by training, has research interests in a variety of interdisciplinary fields, including hydroclimatic natural hazards, climate literacy, and the use of remote sensing and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in the fields of spatial climate and land-surface processes. She specializes in floods, droughts, and extreme weather. Dr. Dupigny-Giroux teaches introductory physical geography and remote sensing courses. Climatology, Remote Sensing, Advanced GIS Applications, Satellite Climatology, and Land-Surface Processes are among the topics covered in her intermediate and advanced level courses. In addition to the 2018 Association for Women Geoscientists Professional Excellence Award, Dr. Dupigny-Giroux has been awarded the University of Georgia Franklin Visiting Scholar for Inclusion and Diversity Leadership, the NSF-funded Satellites, Weather, and Climate (SWAC) professional development program for in-service K-12 science and math teachers, the NSF-funded Diversity Climate Network (D-ClimNet) to improve diversity in climatology, and more.
6. Peter A. Kwaku Kyem
Professor Peter A. Kwaku Kyem is a qualified GIS professional (GISP) with a Ph.D. in Geography from Clark University’s Graduate School of Geography in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. Prof. Kyem’s educational experience includes time spent on three continents: Africa, Europe, and North America. He received his Ph.D. from Clark University for his research on Participatory GIS Applications in Forest Resource Management. Prof. Kyem worked in various research capacities at Clark Labs, which is known for its flagship product, the IDRISI GIS and Image Processing software, while at Clark University. In 1993, he was a member of the Clark Labs research team that created Comprehensive Decision Support Tools in Idrisi GIS. He then taught GIS, Remote Sensing, Resource Management, and other Geography and International Studies courses at Central Connecticut State University. Prof. Kyem has a long history of involvement with the Public Participatory GIS (PPGIS) movement, has published several research articles, and has given conference presentations on PPGIS applications. Prof. Kyem published a book titled “Managing Natural Resource Conflicts with Participatory Mapping and PGIS Applications” with Springer, New York, in September 2021. He has also contributed chapters on Resource Conflicts and PGIS Applications to the two most comprehensive books on GIS and Society published to date. (1) A Handbook of GIS & Society Research (2011), edited by Timothy Nyerges and Ian Masser (Sage Publications) and (2) Community Participation and Geographic Information Systems (2003), edited by Will Craig, Trevor Harris, and Dan Weiner (Taylor & Francis).