The National Business League

Founded by Dr. Booker T. Washington – August 23, 1900


Valerie Thomas

Valerie Thomas

Illusion transmitter

At the age of eight, Valerie Thomas borrowed “The Boys’ First Book of Radio and Electronics” from the library, which helped foster a growing interest in science and technology as well as illustrating the discouragement and obstacles she would face in her early education. Throughout grade school, Thomas did not receive much support for her interests in technology and mathematics from either her family or her educators. Nonetheless, she chose to major in physics in college, one of only two women in her class at Morgan State University to do so, and she excelled.

After graduating from Morgan State, Thomas took a position as a data analyst with NASA, steadily rising up the ranks within the agency. In the 1970s, she was managing the development of image processing system for NASA’s efforts to study Earth from outer space. After witnessing a demonstration using mirrors to produce the illusion of a lit bulb, she began to think of practical uses of transmitting representative, three-dimensional images.

In 1980, Thomas received a patent for an illusion transmitter, a device that uses two concave mirrors to produce images that appear real. In addition to NASA, her technology has potential uses in medical surgeries and for television and video screens. Thomas also served as a mentor throughout her career, encouraging young innovators to pursue their interests in STEM and working towards a more equitable workplace for all.