NSB News Release

William Jackson, Chemist and Founder of NOBCChE, Receives NSB Public Service Award

William Jackson, NSB Public Service Awardee

William Jackson, NSB Public Service Awardee (Credit and Larger Version)

April 27, 2021

Today the National Science Board (NSB) announced that William Jackson is a 2021 recipient of its Public Service Award. 

NSB grants its Public Service Award to individuals and groups that have contributed substantially to increasing public understanding of science and engineering. Jackson is being recognized as both a leader in the field of chemistry and a mentor and advocate for increasing minority participation in science.  

Jackson has made critical scientific contributions to the field of laser chemistry by developing cutting-edge laser technology to study in the laboratory the atoms and the reactive free radicals that he and others observe with ground and satellite telescopes in astronomy. He has also had an exceptionally active career in mentorship, through his publications, his service on committees for equal opportunity, and his personal interactions with hundreds of chemists and chemical engineers. He was one of the founders of National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChEin 1973, which has helped to increase participation of minority students in the sciences. 

His determination and passion for both science and the education of more minorities to pursue degrees in science has had a marked impact on the field of chemistry,” said Maureen Condic, Chair of the 2020 NSB Honorary Awards Subcommittee. “Many African Americans, Latinos and women who are making important contributions to government, industry and academia do so because of Jackson’s sustaining vision. Three generations of minority scientific professionals and students are indebted to the efforts of this man.”  

Jackson grew up in a segregated society in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a Ford Foundation Scholar in its first class at Morehouse College. He did graduate work at The Catholic University of America, where he studied chemistry, physics and mathematics and completed his doctorate research at the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology).  After his Ph.D. he worked for private industry and did postdoctoral research as a NAS-NRC at NBS before becoming a staff scientist with the Goddard Space Flight Center at the peak of the space race in the 1960s. There he led the U.S. team that made the first observation of a comet with the telescope and spectrograph on International Ultraviolet Exploresatellite observationIn the 1970s, while serving as a professor at Howard University, Jackson became a cofounder and inaugural Treasurer of NOBCChE. He also testified several times before the House and Senate Authorization and Appropriation Committees in the U.S. Congress that funds the NSF advocating for increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He secured funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to increase the underrepresented minority population of the graduate student cohort in the Chemistry Department of the University of California, Davis, where he still serves as a Distinguished Researcher and Emeritus Professor of Chemistry.  

“I am deeply honored by this award,” said Jackson. Throughout my career I have worked to increase diversity in science because I truly believe that creativity and hard work in science – and in fact in all human endeavor – are the keys to success. These traits are not limited to any particular race, sex, or country and it is imperative that we let all of the talent we have flourish for the benefit of our country and the world.  

Many others have also recognized Jackson’s work. He is a fellow of the Guggenheim, the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, NOBCChEand the American Chemical Society. NOBCChE granted him the Percy L. Julian Award, and AAAS gave him the association’s Science Lifetime Mentor Award. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific awarded him the 2019 Arthur B.C. Walker II Awardthe APS recognized him with its 2021 Edgar E. Lilienfeld Prize and the Planetary Society named asteroid 4322 Billjackson=1081 EE37 after him as well 

Later this week, the NSB will announce additional 2021 Honorary awardees, and on May 18, 2021 at 4 p.m. EST the NSB will hold a special online ceremony about the winners that will include a celebratory video, showcasing the work of Jackson and other awardees. The public is invited to attend via YouTube.  


Media Contacts 

Alison Gillespie, National Science Board, 703-292-2557, algilles@nsf.gov 

Andy Fell, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-304-8888, ahfell@ucdavis.edu 


About the National Science Board 

The NSB and NSF’s Director jointly head the agency. The Board identifies issues critical to NSF's future and establishes its policies. The NSB also provides the President and Congress with Science and Engineering Indicators, a biennial report on U.S. progress in science and technology. Members are appointed by the President for six-year terms and are selected for their eminence in research, education, and records of distinguished service. 

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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