Women in History: Dr. Shirley Jackson

March is Women’s History Month and we wanted to take a moment to honor some of the innovative women who have played a role in shaping technology and the telecommunications industry as we know it. All throughout March, we will be honoring several influential women in technology who pioneered innovations that make our jobs and lives easier.

Today, the spotlight is on Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, the renowned American physicist. Dr. Jackson has had an influential, decorated career that has helped pave the way for many of the technologies we use in the telecommunications world today.

Let’s take a look at a few of Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson’s biggest accomplishments:

First African-American Woman to Receive a Ph.D. from MIT

In 1973, Dr. Jackson received her doctoral degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, making her the first African-American woman in the university’s history to receive a Ph.D. She was also the second African-American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in physics.

Used Theoretical Physics to Make Modern Telecommunications Technology Possible

In 1976, Dr. Jackson joined the Theoretical Physics Research Department at AT&T Bell Laboratories. At Bell, Dr. Jackson conducted a number of successful theoretical physics experiments and made breakthrough scientific research that enabled others to invent the fax machine, touch-tone phone, fiber optic cells, solar cells and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.

Served as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Jackson to serve as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, making her both the first woman and the first African-American to ever occupy the role.

Inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame

In 1999, Dr. Jackson was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, recognized for “her significant contributions as a distinguished scientist and advocate for education, science and public policy.”

Became Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s 18th President

On July 1, 1999, Jackson became the 18th president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Dr. Jackson is both the first woman and the first African-American to serve in this position. She still serves as RPI’s president and has a contract in the position through 2020.

Appointed to President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

In 2009, Jackson was appointed to serve on President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which is a 20-member advisory group dedicated to public policy.

Received the National Medal of Science

In 2014, Jackson was presented with the National Medal of Honor, which is the highest honor for scientific achievement bestowed by the U.S. government. Jackson received the medal on May 19, 2016, in a special ceremony at the White House where she was presented the award by President Barack Obama.

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson’s stunning array of accomplishments speak for themselves. She is an exemplary role model to all, and we have her to thank for many of the technologies that make it easier to communicate and collaborate in the workplace. Thanks, Dr. Jackson, for all of your hard work and innovation!

About Chelsea Mize

Chelsea Mize
Chelsea Mize is a writer and content creator with a weakness for the Oxford Comma. When she’s not writing, you will find Chelsea searching for new spots to brunch and binge watching TV shows she’s already seen.

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