by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)
Next time you glance at your phone, see an unwelcome name, and send that unwanted call to voicemail, know physicist Shirley Ann Jackson is the one who had your back.
The first African American woman to earn a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Jackson is responsible for major advances in telecommunications research that led to the invention of the touch-tone phone, portable fax, fiber optic cables, solar cells, call waiting and yes, Caller ID.
Recently, Dr. Jackson was named the 2021 recipient of the esteemed Hans Christian Oersted Medal presented by the American Association of Physics Teachers.
According to the Journal of Black Educators, the Oersted Medal is named for a Danish physicist who made significant contributions to the field of electromagnetism. The medal is awarded annually to a person who has had outstanding, widespread, and lasting impact on the teaching of physics.
To quote from jbhe.com:
“Dr. Jackson has made many contributions to physics and physics education. Her valuable contributions to science have resulted in useful technologies in the telecommunications field,” stated Beth Cunningham, executive officer of the American Association of Physics Teachers.
“She continues her effort to preserve and strengthen the U.S. national capacity for innovation by advocating for increased support for basic research in science and engineering. She has also advocated for expanding the domestic talent pool by attracting women and members of underrepresented groups into careers in science.”
Dr. Jackson was chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1995 to 1999, then moved into academia when she took over as the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1999, the oldest technological research university in the U.S.
In 2016, Dr. Jackson was awarded the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama.
[Photo: Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson and President Barack Obama via commons.wikipedia.org]