Her Story: Valerie Thomas

Valerie Thomas (1943) is an award-winning African-American scientist and inventor who created and patented the illusion transmitter. 

After seeing an illusion that involved concave mirrors and light bulbs in a museum, Valerie Thomas began experimenting with the application of concave mirrors in her work at NASA. On October 21, 1980, she obtained the patent for the illusion transmitter. The illusion transmitter produces optical illusion images via two concave mirrors that appear to be real, or in front of the mirror itself. This device continues to be used by NASA today to send images from space to earth. The technology is also used in the medical field to assist with surgeries. 

During her time at NASA, Valerie Thomas developed real-time computer data systems to support satellite control centers. She also oversaw the creation of the NASA Landsat program that spearheaded some of the first image transmissions from space.

She has received a number of NASA awards including the Goddard Space Flight Center Award of Merit, and the NASA Equal Opportunity Medal. Today we honor Valerie Thomas for her contributions to science and technology, She Made History!

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About The Author


Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.


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