Shirley Ann Jackson

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, a visionary scientist, educator and public policy innovator, has broken barriers and blazed trails throughout her life.

Dr. Jackson was one of the first two African-American women to receive a doctorate in physics in the United States and was the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Committed to promoting social justice, she organized MIT’s Black Student Union and worked to increase the number of blacks entering MIT. After only one year, the number entering rose from 2 to 57.

A renowned physicist, Dr. Jackson was appointed Chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 1995 by President Clinton. While there, she enhanced the commission’s regulatory effectiveness and initiated a bottom-up strategic assessment of all NRC activities. As the first African American woman to serve on the NRC and the first woman and African American to lead the entity, Dr. Jackson reaffirmed that agency’s commitment to public health and safety.

In 1999, Dr. Jackson became the 18th President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological university in the United States, and has led an extraordinary transformation of the school since her arrival through an ambitious strategic initiative known as The Rensselaer Plan.

Dr. Jackson’s numerous awards and wide-ranging work demonstrate the capability of women and minorities to join the leadership ranks in science and technology, education and public policy. A 2007 recipient of the prestigious Vannevar Bush Award for a “lifetime of achievements in scientific research, education, and senior statesman-like contributions to public policy,” Dr. Jackson holds 45 honorary doctoral degrees and is the recipient of countless other awards.

Time Magazine quite aptly described Dr. Jackson in 2005 as “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science.”

Shirley Ann Jackson

Year Honored: 1998

Birth: 1946 -

Born In: District of Columbia

Achievements: Education, Science

Educated In: Washington, DC; Massachusetts

Schools Attended: Roosevelt High School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology