20 Notable Black Americans in Telecom and Technology

Valerie Thomas was only one of two women in her class at HBCU’s Morgan State University to major in physics. She was an excellent student, and her knowledge of mathematics led her to a position as a mathematical/data analyst for NASA. Thomas moved up within NASA and eventually managed the development of NASA’s image-processing systems for “Landsat,” the first satellite to send multi-spectral images to study the Earth’s resources from outer space. In 1980, she received a patent for her illusion transmitter, which uses a concave mirror on the transmitting end as well as on the receiving end to produce optical illusion images. NASA uses the technology today, and scientists are currently working on ways to incorporate it into tools for surgeons to look inside the human body, as well as for television sets and video screens.

Thomas continued to work for NASA until her retirement in 1995, serving in such positions as Space Physics Analysis Network (SPAN) project manager and most recently associate chief of the Space Science Data Operations Office.

Source: Lemelson MIT