Famous Black Inventors

Dr. Shirley Jackson

Telecommunications Inventions

Dr. Shirley Jackson

Dr. Shirley Jackson, a theoretical physicist and famous black inventor, has been credited with making many advances in science. She first developed an interest in science and mathematics during her childhood and conducted experiments and studies, such as those on the eating habits of honeybees. She followed this interest to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she received a bachelors, masters, and doctoral degree, all in the field of physics. In doing so she became the first African-American woman to acquire a Ph.D. from MIT.

Jackson started to conduct successful experiments in theoretical physics and then started to use her knowledge in physics to start making advances in telecommunications while working at Bell Laboratories. These inventions include developments in the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cell, and the fiber optic cables used to provide clarity in overseas telephone calls. She has also helped make possible Caller ID and Call Waiting.

Currently, Jackson is the president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, recently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation's top 50 universities. The mission of the Rensselaer Plan calls for "apply[ing] science to the common purposes of life." Dr. Jackson's goal for Rensselaer is "to achieve prominence in the 21st century as a top-tier world-class technological research university, with global reach and global impact."

For more information on Dr. Shirley Jackson, refer to:

Dr. Shirley Jackson, a progressive scientist
RPI: Profile of Shirley Ann Jackson