Parkinson developed the Global Positioning System, a locational
and navigational system that allows users to determine their location
with great accuracy. GPS 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 in order 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.
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.
in Wisconsin, Parkinson received his B.S. in general engineering
at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1957, and his M.S. in aeronautics
and astronautics from MIT in 1961. In 1966, he received his Ph.D.
from Stanford University in aeronautics and astronautics. Parkinson
is the recipient of many awards, including the 2003 Charles Stark
Draper Prize, the IEEE Sperry Award, NASA's Distinguished Public
Service Medal, and has been inducted into the NASA Hall of Fame.