How the Invention Of Caller ID and Call Waiting Were Moments in Black Excellence


This is part of a special series, presented by Thrivent Financial, that focuses on a diversity of American inventors and innovations. 


Shirley A. Jackson, a leading American scientist, is one of the greatest contributors to the capabilities of the landline telephone system. The first African-American woman to graduate with a doctorate in particle physics, she went on to work for Bell Laboratories, the research division of AT&T, where she worked on programs that marked major advances in the field of telecommunications.

Jackson helped to invent a variety of developments that revolutionized the way we communicate, from touch-tone dialing to call-waiting and Caller ID. One contribution, however, looms bigger than most: the invention of fiber-optic cables that link the world's communication systems.

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She was inducted into the Women in Technology International Foundation Hall of Fame (WITI) in June 2000. WITI recognizes women technologists and scientists whose achievements are exceptional. Dr. Jackson was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998 for her significant and profound contributions as a distinguished scientist and advocate for education, science, and public policy.


Image at top via Quino Al/Unsplash.

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