Frank Jewett

September 5, 1879 - November 18, 1949

Membership Type:
Member (elected 1918)

Frank Jewett served as President of the National Academy of Sciences from 1939 to 1947. He was a leader in the communications industry, serving as the first president of Bell Laboratories. After graduating from the Throop Institute of Technology (later the California Institute of Technology) in 1899, he earned his PhD in physics from the University of Chicago in 1902.

He taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and began researching telephonic transmissions at the Mechanical Department of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). In 1906 he became director of the Mechanical Department, which merged with the Engineering Department of Western Electric in 1907. Jewett led the engineering of the first transcontinental telephone line in 1915. In 1922 he was the president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and in 1925 Jewett became president of the newly established Bell Laboratories. He served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bell Laboratories from 1940 to 1944 and Vice President of AT&T.  The Industrial Research Institute awarded him the IRI medal for his leadership in technology and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers awarded him the Edison Medal for his research in electric communications.

Jewett’s presidency of the National Academy of Sciences is marked by World War II. He played an integral role in mobilizing the Academy and National Research Council for war. In his term he oversaw the creation of the National Defense Research Committee, on which he served in 1940. This committee evaluated industrial research facilities for the war effort. In addition, the Academy and the Council became advisory agents for the Office of Scientific Research and Development, which created a more involved and direct relationship between the Academy and government.

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