29 Mar

Remembering Virginia T. Norwood

Virginia Norwood was an American physicist, best known for her contributions to the Landsat program, having designed the Multispectral Scanner which was first used on Landsat 1. For this work, she earned the title, the “Mother of Landsat.” In June of 1947, Mrs. Norwood graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in mathematical physics. Her understanding of physics enabled her to find innovative approaches to solving problems, exemplified by her three U.S. patents, the first one being invented at the early age of 22. On July 23, 1972, Landsat 1 launched, and for the first time, gave NASA the ability to capture high quality images from a satellite in orbit. She worked on Landsat instrumentation for a decade before moving onto other projects, however she considered Landsat to be her greatest achievement because of its positive societal impacts.

Mrs. Norwood and Dr. Price

On November 18th 2022, the American Geographical Society recognized Mrs. Norwood for her immense contributions to the field of cartography and geodesy by awarding her the O.M. Miller Cartographic Medal during the Honors and Awards Ceremony at the annual Geography 2050 Symposium. Although she was unable to attend, AGS President Dr. Marie Price was able to present the medal to her at her home in Los Angeles, California in December.

Mrs. Norwood holding her O.M. Miller Cartographic Medal

Dr. Deborah Popper, AGS Vice President and Chair of the Honors and Awards Committee, spoke on awarding Mrs. Norwood her medal, “AGS is thrilled to join the bandwagon of people now recognizing the contributions of Virginia Norwood. Her multispectral scanner that was to be a small side experiment on the first Landsat mission opened up the field of remote sensing that has expanded our understanding of conditions on Earth.” Read AGS’ press release on Mrs. Norwood’s award here.

The Society offers the Norwood Family and the entire geospatial and geographic community sincerest condolences as we mourn the loss of Virginia T. Norwood, the “Mother of Landsat.” Read more about Mrs. Norwood in NASA Landsat’s statement here.