Valerie Thomas is a retired scientist and inventor known for her contributions to aerospace engineering at NASA and her patented Illusion Transmitter.
Thomas was born in Maryland in 1943. According to Biography, Thomas was interested in science as a child. However, as a young woman raised within the social constructs of the 1950s, she was unable to explore her interests and talents until she left for college.
As a student at Morgan State University, she was one of only two women to major in physics, according to Biography. Thomas excelled in her studies and was hired into NASA upon her graduation.
While at NASA, Thomas helped develop the technology behind the first satellite that allowed images to be sent to Earth from space as a part of the Landsat program. She became internationally known as an expert contact for Landsat data, according to NASA.gov.
Thomas held several positions within NASA before her retirement in 1995. She led a team of 50 scientists for the Large Area Crop Inventory Experiment (LACIE), worked as the assistant program manager for Landsat, served as the operations manager for Landsat-D, and was also the technical officer for a $42 million multi-year technical support contract and deputy project manager for the Pilot Land Data System.
Throughout her career, Thomas inspired younger generations of Black engineers and scientists. Today, NASA continues to use her technology and is exploring ways to use it in medical tools and even television and video.