Photo of John S. Mayo

John S. Mayo

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Agriculture

For providing the technological foundation for information-age communications, and for overseeing the conversion of the national switched telephone network from analog to a digital-based technology for virtually all long-distance calls both nationwide and between continents.

John S. Mayo’s storied career in electronics can be traced back to his fascination in the 1930s and 1940s with amateur radio. Amateur radio, at the time, was a way for science enthusiasts to talk with each other. Those conversations, he told an interviewer in 1999, pushed him to study electrical engineering in college and “go through to a Ph.D.’’

In the decades after receiving that doctorate in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University in 1955, Mayo’s name would be attached to some of the most technologically-important research on projects ranging from satellites to sonar and computers to telephone networks. He received 12 patents.

Mayo joined Bell Labs out of college and worked on a number of projects. His work with the first transistorized digital computer pioneered the use of transistors. His research also played a role in the development of the Telstar satellite system and the world’s first long-distance digital switching system.

In 1991 Mayo became the seventh president of Bell Labs. Under his leadership Bell launched programs in fiber optics, wireless communication and video.

By Robert Warren