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February 18, 2004

Parkinson inducted to National Inventors Hall of Fame

Professor Bradford Parkinson, co-inventor with the late Ivan Getting of the Global Positioning System (GPS), will be inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame on May 1 in Akron, Ohio. Parkinson is among 20 inventors whose accomplishments range from the discovery and identification of HIV to the advent of advanced electronics. Included are Ray Dolby (creator of noise reduction systems), Harry Coover (superglue), Charles Kelman (cataract eye surgery) and Edith Flanigen (molecular filters for petroleum processing).

GPS is a locational and navigational system that allows users to pinpoint place with great accuracy. It makes use of signals transmitted by some of the 24 dedicated NAVSTAR satellites circling the globe in precisely defined orbits. Using the satellites as reference points, GPS receivers calculate positions based on the difference in arrival time of signals from the different satellites. Although GPS was initially developed for the U.S. military to guide missiles to targets, it is now routinely used for air traffic control systems, ships, trucks and cars, mechanized farming, search and rescue, tracking environmental changes, and more.

Getting (1912-2003) conceived the idea of a Global Positioning System. While serving as vice president of research and engineering at the Raytheon Corp. during the 1950s, he advanced the concept of using a system of satellites to allow the calculation of precise positioning data for rapidly moving vehicles ranging from cars to missiles.   Getting also made significant contributions to the early development of radar and Projects Mercury and Gemini.  

Parkinson created and ran the NAVSTAR GPS Joint Program Office from 1972 to 1978.   As the program's first manager, he has been the chief architect of GPS throughout the system's conception, engineering development and implementation.

Born in Wisconsin, Parkinson received his bachelor's degree in general engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1957, and his master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT in 1961. In 1966, he received his doctorate from Stanford in aeronautics and astronautics. At Stanford, he is the Edward C. Wells Professor in the School of Engineering, Emeritus, and co-principle investigator of the Gravity Probe B project. An inductee into the NASA Hall of Fame, Parkinson is the recipient of many awards, including the 2003 Charles Stark Draper Prize, the Sperry Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal.

Editor Note:

A photo of Parkinson is available on the Web at



Dawn Levy, News Service: (650) 725-1944,


Bradford W Parkinson, Aeronautics and Astronautics: (650) 725-4105,

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