The Remarkable Career Of Shirley Ann Jackson

By Amanda Schaffer

Shirley Ann Jackson ’68, PhD ’73, worked to help bring about more diversity at MIT, where she was the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate. She then applied her mix of vision and pragmatism in the lab, in Washington, and at the helm of a major research university.

Shirley Ann Jackson arrived at MIT in the fall of 1964 as one of just a handful of black students and the valedictorian of her public high school in Washington, D.C. In the midst of working on her first physics problem set, she emerged from her room and noticed all the other first-year women on her floor out in a common area, doing theirs together. “If you know anything about MIT, you know that working the problem sets is a big deal,” she says. “So I gathered up my paperwork and said, ‘May I join you?’

“One of them looked up and said, ‘Go away.’

Shirley-Ann-Jackson“I said, ‘I’ve done half the problems already and I know how to do the other ones.’

Source: Technology Review

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