Moment in History: Valerie L. Thomas (video)


Valerie L. Thomas (born February 8, 1943) is an American scientist and inventor.

Thomas was interested in science as a child, after observing her father tinkering with the television and seeing the mechanical parts inside.

Thomas did not have a lot of support as a young child; her parents did not fight for her right to study a STEM curriculum, but she did have a few teachers who fought for her at a young age. She attended Morgan State University, where she was one of two women majoring in physics. Thomas excelled in her mathematics and science courses at Morgan State University. She graduated with highest honors in 1964 with a degree in physics went on to work for NASA.

Later in her career, Thomas invented the illusion transmitter, for which she received a patent in 1980. She was responsible for developing the digital media formats image processing systems used in the early years of the Landsat program.

Among her notable achievements, Thomas has received numerous awards including the Goddard Space Flight Center Award of Merit and NASA’s Equal Opportunity Medal.

At the end of August 1995, she retired from NASA and her positions of associate chief of NASA’s Space Science Data Operations Office, manager of the NASA Automated Systems Incident Response Capability, and as chair of the Space Science Data Operations Office Education Committee.

She continued to serve as a mentor for youth through the Science Mathematics Aerospace Research and Technology and National Technical Association.

Thomas’s invention was depicted in a children’s fictional book, television, and video games.

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