Today is the start of Black History month (which deserves WAAAAY more than 1 month) and feeling so inspired from watching Hidden Figures, I want to dedicate many posts this month to other female hidden figures that we can all look up to and thank for their behind-the-scenes roles in some important parts of our lives.
Shirley Ann Jackson
Shirley Ann Jackson is starting off this series because she is one smart scientist and is still alive today kickin’ science ass. She grew up in Washington DC and graduated as the valedictorian in 1964. She went on to MIT where she was one of only 20 other black students attending the school at the time.. this really wasn’t that long ago which is blowing my mind. She went on to be the first African-American to get a doctorate degree from MIT, and only the second African American woman in the US to get a doctorate in physics as of 1973.
Shirley didn’t just excel at science but specifically physics and subatomic particles. After stints with prestigious labs she ended up traveling around Europe as a visiting scientist and lecturer. I read about a lot of the work she did and most of it goes way over my head, so I can’t even begin to explain it. She worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories where she contributed a lot to fiber optic cables. She’s credited with scientific research that enabled others to invent fiber optic cables, solar cells, the touchtone telephone, portable fax and caller ID/call waiting.
She’s gotten so many awards and has been the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (picked by Bill Clinton) and was appointed by Obama to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. She is currently the 18th President of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where she’s making bank for all her hard work. Even at 70 she’s teaching, fundraising for scientific research and inspiring the next generation.
Thank you Shirley Ann Jackson!