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Who Really Invented GPS Technology?

Get to Know the Real Inventors Behind GPS Technology

Who Really Invented GPS Technology?

History of GPS Technology

Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has become an essential part of our daily lives. We use it for navigation while driving, hiking, or biking, tracking fitness activities, and even finding lost pets. The technology has taken over the world by storm, helping us find the most direct route to our destination and taking out the hassle of asking for directions. However, do you ever wonder where GPS technology originated? Who invented this innovative technology that has transformed the way we travel and communicate? In this article, we will dive into the history of GPS technology and the people behind it.

From Sputnik to Transit

The story of GPS technology begins with space technology and the Cold War. The Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, initiating the space race and the era of space exploration. The United States was determined to develop its space technology, which led to the launch of its first satellite, Explorer-1, shortly after. During this same period, the US Navy was also working on a navigation system to help guide their submarines.

In 1960, the US Navy introduced Transit, the first satellite-based navigation system, designed to help guide their submarines to their precise location. Transit worked by measuring signals between the satellites and the submarines and figuring out their relative position. However, it was far from perfect and only accurate to within a few kilometers.

Military Use of GPS

Fast forward to the 1970s, where the United States Department of Defense (DoD) was already working on a new and improved navigation system. The new system was called the Navigation System with Timing and Ranging (NAVSTAR), later known as the GPS. The DoD believed that the GPS could be critical for military operations as it would allow U.S. military personnel to have precise locations and geographic information.

The development of the GPS system was not an easy task, it required complex engineering and advanced technology, and most importantly, it was kept a top-secret. The United States Air Force Space Command began the development of the GPS system in the 1970s and finally launched the first GPS satellite in February 1978.

Over the next decade, the DoD continued to develop the GPS system and make improvements to enhance its accuracy, reliability, and functionality. In 1983, the GPS system had 10 satellites in orbit and was available for military use. The GPS provided the military with accuracy to within 22 meters initially. However, GPS technology continued to evolve, and by 1995, GPS accuracy was down to 5 meters.

Public Access to GPS

While GPS technology was a game-changer in military applications, its use was not available to the public until the early 1980s. One of the significant events that paved the way for GPS technology's public use was the shootdown of Korean Airlines Flight 007 by Soviet interceptor jets in September 1983.

President Ronald Reagan ordered that GPS technology be made available for civilian use to avoid such tragic incidents in the future. In 1983, the first GPS receiver, called the NAVSTAR, was released for civilian use. Over time, GPS technology continued to develop, and handheld GPS receivers became more affordable and accessible.

In conclusion, GPS technology has changed the way we use navigation and has become an integral part of our daily lives. Its development roots in space technology and military applications, and it was not until President Reagan made it available for civilian use that GPS technology transformed into what we know today.

Who Invented GPS?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a ubiquitous technology that we use almost every day for directions, navigation, and tracking purposes. GPS has become so ingrained in our daily lives that we often do not even think about the amazing technology that makes it possible. But, who invented GPS? In this article, we will explore the history of GPS technology and the significant individuals behind its creation.

Roger Easton

Roger Easton is considered the lead inventor of GPS. He was a physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and worked on several projects related to satellite navigation in the 1950s and 1960s. It was during this time that he came up with the idea of using satellites to determine precise location on Earth. Easton's work was critical to the development of GPS and he is credited with creating the first GPS receiver.

Easton's initial work on GPS started with the Navy's Transit satellite system, which was a precursor to GPS. Easton improved the accuracy of Transit by using a technique called time difference of arrival (TDOA), which allowed for precise timing of satellite signals. He later went on to develop the first GPS satellite as part of the Navy's Navigation Satellite System (NAVSTAR) project. Easton's work earned him many accolades, including the National Medal of Technology and the IEEE Medal of Honor. Sadly, Roger Easton passed away in 2014 at the age of 93.

Ivan Getting

Ivan Getting was an American physicist and engineer who played a critical role in the development of GPS. As president of the Aerospace Corporation, he was instrumental in getting funding for the project and making it a reality. Getting is considered the father of GPS because he was the first to propose the idea of using satellites for navigation purposes in a 1960 paper titled "A Toffler (sic) Navigation System Using Satellites."

Getting was also involved in the development of the Defense Navigation Satellite System (DNSS), which was later renamed GPS. He was a key advocate for GPS and helped secure funding from the US government, as well as getting buy-in from various government agencies. Without his leadership and vision, GPS may not have become the powerful tool that it is today. Ivan Getting passed away in 2003 at the age of 91.

Bradford Parkinson

Bradford Parkinson was a colonel in the Air Force and one of the key inventors of GPS. He was instrumental in the development of the system and is often referred to as the "father of GPS" because of his critical role in its invention. Parkinson was responsible for the overall design of the GPS system and oversaw its development. He also helped secure funding for the project and was a strong advocate for its implementation.

One of Parkinson's main contributions to GPS was the development of GPS receivers, which made it possible for the system to be used by anyone with a GPS device. He also played a critical role in the development of the GPS Joint Program Office, which oversaw the implementation of the system. Parkinson's contributions to GPS have been widely recognized, and he has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Technology and the Draper Prize. Parkinson is currently a professor emeritus at Stanford University.


The development of GPS technology is a story of human ingenuity, innovation, and perseverance. It required the collaboration of many brilliant minds to bring the technology from an idea to a reality. Roger Easton, Ivan Getting, and Bradford Parkinson were three of the key individuals who made GPS possible. Their contributions to the development of GPS have had a profound impact on our lives and have changed the way we navigate the world. GPS is a testament to the power of human creativity and cooperation and will continue to shape the future of our world.

Who Invented GPS Technology?

GPS or Global Positioning System is a technology that enables an individual or device to determine its precise location on Earth, primarily through satellite navigation. This technology was developed by the United States government and was primarily used for military purposes. However, as time passed by, the application of the GPS technology has shifted beyond the military sector and is now widely available for commercial and personal use.

The Inventors of GPS Technology

GPS technology was developed by the United States government and was a collaborative effort of several people. The primary credit for the invention goes to Ivan Getting and Bradford Parkinson. Ivan Getting was an American physicist, engineer, and mathematician who was the founder of the Aerospace Corporation. Professor Bradford Parkinson of Stanford University was the program manager and the chief designer of the NAVSTAR GPS.

The Early Development of GPS Technology

The development of GPS technology began in the 1960s when the United States Department of Defense envisioned a system that could be used for military purposes, such as tracking the movement of troops, ships, and submarines. The first NAVSTAR GPS satellite was launched in February 1978, and by 1983 the GPS system had started offering accurate location tracking for military use.

How GPS Works

GPS technology relies on three principles, namely the time, the speed of light, and trilateration. Trilateration, which is the process of measuring the distance between three or more satellites and a receiver to pinpoint location, forms the core of the GPS technology.


The trilateration method uses three fundamental factors to determine the precise location of an object on Earth- the time, the speed of light, and the distance from the GPS receiver to the GPS satellites. The GPS receiver takes the time difference between the time at which the signal was sent by the satellite and the moment when the GPS receiver receives the signal. The time difference is then multiplied by the speed of light to determine the distance traveled by the signal from the satellite. By using the signal data from at least three satellites, the GPS receiver triangulates the position of the GPS receiver.

Timing and Signals

To triangulate a GPS receiver's position accurately, the GPS satellites use extremely precise timing. The GPS receiver uses the signals sent by GPS satellites to calculate its location. These signals are emitted at an extremely high frequency, 1575.42 MHz, which is equivalent to a wavelength of 19 centimeters. GPS satellites also transmit data that provides information about their precise locations and the precise time at which their signals were sent.

Accuracy and Other Factors

GPS technology has a varying level of accuracy, influenced by factors such as the number and position of the GPS satellites in the sky, the surrounding terrain and buildings, and atmospheric conditions such as magnetic storms, solar flares, and heavy cloud cover. Other factors that can affect the accuracy of GPS include the position of the antenna on the GPS receiver and the quality of the GPS receiver itself. The highest level of accuracy is achieved using Differential GPS, which uses two GPS receivers to calculate the location.In conclusion, GPS technology has been instrumental in various fields ranging from military use to commercial and personal use. Although GPS technology has its limitations, it remains a vital tool for determining location for various applications, including navigation, surveying, tracking, and scientific research.

Who Invented GPS Technology?

Global Positioning System or GPS is a satellite-based navigation system that provides the exact location and time information to anyone with a GPS receiver. It has become an essential tool in various fields, including transportation, mapping, research, and exploration. But, who invented GPS technology?

GPS technology was not created by a single person. It was a result of decades of work conducted by different scientists and engineers. However, there are a few key players in the development of GPS.

The Development of GPS

The idea of satellite-based navigation was first proposed in the early 1960s by the United States Department of Defense. The US Navy began developing a positioning system called Transit, which was primarily used for submarine navigation. Transit used a concept called Doppler shift to determine the position of a submarine accurately.

In 1973, Dr. Ivan Getting, a physicist who was then the president of The Aerospace Corporation, proposed a similar system called the Navstar Global Positioning System to the Department of Defense. The project was approved in 1978, and the first GPS satellite was launched in 1978.

Dr. Bradford W. Parkinson, a retired colonel in the US Air Force, is widely credited as one of the GPS technology's main inventors. Parkinson was the first director of the GPS Joint Program Office and played a crucial role in the development of the GPS system.

Impact of GPS Technology

GPS technology has transformed the way we navigate and explore. It has become an essential tool in various fields, including transportation, mapping, research, and exploration.

Navigation and Mapping

GPS has revolutionized navigation and mapping, making it possible to navigate almost anywhere with ease and accuracy. With GPS, we can find our way in unfamiliar places and avoid getting lost. GPS technology is used in mapping applications such as Google Maps, which provides real-time traffic updates and directions. The accuracy of GPS also helps in surveying, construction, and agriculture.

Transportation and Logistics

GPS has also transformed the transportation and logistics industries, allowing for more efficient routing and tracking of vehicles and packages. It helps businesses optimize their supply chains and reduce delivery times. GPS tracking technology provides real-time information on a vehicle's location, speed, and direction, allowing companies to monitor driver behavior and vehicle maintenance.

Scientific Research and Exploration

GPS technology has been used in scientific research and exploration, including tracking animal migration patterns and guiding space missions. Scientists use GPS to track the movements of birds, sea turtles, and other wildlife species. GPS is also used to study earthquakes, atmospheric trends, and climate change. It has been used in various space missions, including the Mars Rover and the Hubble Space Telescope.


GPS technology has come a long way from its early beginnings as a navigation system for submarines. Today, it is an essential tool used in various fields, including transportation, mapping, research, and exploration. The development of GPS involved the work of many scientists and engineers, and its impact is undeniable. GPS has made our lives easier and has opened up new possibilities for innovation and exploration.

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