Biography of Valerie Thomas

Valerie Thomas

Born in May 1943, African-American Valerie Thomas grew up tinkering with her father’s electronics and playing with what were considered “males” electronics.  Things like an old radio, television, camera, among other early electronic devices ultimately lead her to her passion for technology & science, her own patent, and numerous awards for her outstanding achievements.

Attending an all girls private school was the start of her educational track record, but she quickly differentiated herself from the other females at her school.  Earning top marks in virtually every subject in her class she would eventually move on to earn a degree from Morgan State University in Physics while being one of only two women to do so at the time.  Paving the way for many women, and many African-American females AND males.  While by today’s standards this is a great accomplishment for any individual; in the 1960’s this was relatively unheard of.   Remember, she is attending college in a time when race and sex were both shunned from most universities.  In addition to being an African-American female at a University, she also chose a path not typically sought out by females- Mathematics and Science.  She faced much adversity growing up during tough times for African-American’s and excelled tremendously in her fields of work.

Her patent for her illusion transmitter was issued on October 21, 1980.  The whole process seems complicated when one thinks about it too much, the overall basis for how her patent works isn’t too perplexing however.  The process is very paralleled to that of a holographic which uses forms of radiation to create the holograph.  While this technology is still being further developed and employed into our lives in one way or another, Valerie Thomas’s Patent utilizes a much more inexpensive way of creating a similar illusion.  Using Parabolic Mirrors and a conceived mirror she was able to create this process and device- The Illusion Transmitter.  This is seen as one of her greatest feats as it paved the way for our current 3D technology we are imploring into our everyday use in televisions, although she does have some other very exceptional work such as working with NASAs Landsat Satellite Group.   She was among some of the first Women to work at NASA and in the Science field for the most part.  Even though she was not one of the 54 women who have ever flown in space her work on Landsat continues to be utilized and further developed because of how essential the series of satellites is for NASA and space explorations/earth surveying.

Currently, Dr. Thomas enjoys her retirement from NASA after receiving numerous awards for her services.  An Award called the GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center) Award of Merit and also the NASA Equal Opportunity Medal were both given to her for being outstanding in her field.    Retiring in 1995, a career for an African-American Women such as her from her time is incredible.  Overcoming the odds in both race and sex to achieve something phenomenal to be used for further space discovery, but also an application which can currently be applied to the modern day an age.


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