Valarie Thomas: The NASA Physician Who Paved Way For 3D Movies

by Yvonne
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Valarie Thomas NASA Physician

Valarie L. Thomas, inventor of the illusion transmitter – “the first mechanism to create the appearance of a 3D image using concave mirrors and rays of light” is deservedly credited for revolutionizing the world of television as it is today.

Technology today has most definitely come a long way, impacting and improving our daily living, ultimately changing lives. The wowing realistic impact of 3D movies have opened our eyes to a world of endless possibilities and lasting memories; talk Avatar, Toy Story 3, Minions and many other jaw dropping flicks which keep you at the edge of your seat, video games …no doubt, technology has spiced up our world in untold ways.

Long before we could ever even imagine pure magic being brought before our very eyes, Valarie Thomas did the ground work. In the 1940s when females were lacking in the technological scene as they were often discouraged from learning maths and science, a young Valarie picked up interest in the field after observing her father tinkering with the television, seeing first-hand the mechanical parts inside the TV, she couldn’t resist. At the tender age of eight, she read The Boys First Book on Electronics, it marked a milestone, sparking her interest in a career in science.

Swiftly, Valarie began exploring, regardless of the obvious obstacles which surrounded her; attending an all-girls high school where math and science courses were limited – SomehowΒ she managed to take a physics course but didn’t relent on her interests. Her teachers were quick to catchΒ  on her passion and encouraged her abilities with extra projects. She graduated from high school in about 1961.
Valerie went onto be one of two women who majored in physics at Morgan State University. She received a degree in 1964 with highest honors.

Upon graduation, Valerie Thomas was offered a data analyst position at NASA in 1965. At NASA, she had a successful career and worked for more than 10 years on the Landsat image processing system, the first satellite to provide images from outer space. She oversaw the creation of the Landsat program – the longest-running acquisition of satellite imagery for Earth and soon established herself as an international expert at NASA for Landsat data products.

Ms. Thomas who worked her way up to associate chief of the Space Science Data Operations Office at NASA retired from NASA in 1995.

Way back in 1976, while attending an exhibition, Valerie stumbled on a discovery which would lead her to her remarkable invention –
an illusion of a glowing light bulb that had been unscrewed and removed from a lamp, created using another lightbulb and concave mirrors. Intrigued and inspired, she thought of how such images could be transmitted like other images, the following year, she swung in and began her research. This experiment led to the invention of the Illusion Transmitter. In 1980, she received a patent.

Valerie continued working at NASA until she retired in 1995, after a thirty year career there. While there, she also contributed to the development of the Space Physics Analysis Network (SPAN) and received many awards for her work including number of NASA awards including the GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center) Award of Merit, and the NASA Equal Opportunity Medal.

The 78 year old till date is devoted to passing her knowledge and inspiring the younger generation.

Well done Queen!!

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