Ira Jacobs was born in Brooklyn on January 3rd, 1931. He attended school at the City College of New York where in 1950 he received his B.S. degree Magna Cum Laude in physics. He went to Purdue University shortly afterwards where he received his M.S. and Ph.D. in physics in 1952 and 1955.
Hired by Bell Labs in 1955, Jacobs started off as a member of the technical staff in working in electromagnetic and communication theory, and was promoted to supervisor in 1960, department head in 1962, and eventually director in 1969. Jacobs primarily worked in telephone transmission systems engineering and development and directed the development of much of AT&T’s early fiber optic transmission systems. He served at the Whippany location until 1967 when he moved to the Holmdel location, where he remained for the rest of his tenure at Bell Labs. After retiring from Bell Labs in 1987, Jacobs became a professor of electrical engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Jacobs was named an IEEE Fellow in 1981, and became a Life Fellow in 1995 for his work in fiber optics. He was an active volunteer in IEEE, especially in the IEEE Communications Society and the IEEE Photonics Society; he was a senior advisor to the editor of IEEE Transactions on Communications, and was an associate editor of IEEE Photonics Technology Letters. Jacobs served on the executive committee of the IEEE Virginia Mountain Section for many years and received the section’s Outstanding Service Award in 1998 and 2003, and the IEEE Centennial Medal in 2000. He also was appointed to the FCC Technological Advisory Council in March 2003.In 1988, he served on the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal Selection Committee.
Jacobs passed away on Wednesday, August 11th, 2010, after a battle with cancer and was survived by his wife Irene, and children Philip Jacobs and Mona Markell and Nancy Jacobs.