Philip Graden

Victor Lawrence – The Global Telecom Pioneer

As we roll up on a year of living in the time of COVID, the fact that our resilient networks are designed for demand, allowing us to connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime, is sometimes taken for granted. With the click of a button communities can connect in real time. Like last week’s spotlight on Marian Croak, today we highlight another dedicated engineer who shaped modern-day global telecommunications – Victor Lawrence.

Lawrence, born in Accra, Ghana, at nine years old learned the importance of a solid education after his father tragically passed away. With his mother now the sole provider, Lawrence took advantage of every opportunity, taking his studies seriously, and realizing a scholarship education was essential to fueling his passion for science and technology. Lawrence went on to attend the Imperial College of Science and Technology at the University of London where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering.

Where did his interest in science and technology come from?

Lawrence credits his interest in science and tech to two events: John Glenn becoming the first American to orbit the Earth and President John F. Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the Moon” speech. That passion lead him at AT&T Bell Laboratories.

At Bell Labs Lawrence was keenly interested in applying digital signal processing to data communications. As a pioneer in this field, his work led to voice-band modems and DSL internet allowing us to communicate through telephone and connect to the internet. Communications systems as we know them today use signal processing across video, radio and wireless systems, making the processing and transmission of data more efficient. Lawrence’s work transformed the internet into a global industry, paving the way for digital video, radio and high-definition television.

Today, Lawrence continues his transformative efforts and continues to inspire and give back to future generations. An advocate for global internet access in all nations, he has spearheaded efforts to lay high-capacity fiber optic cable along the west coast of Africa. As Black History Month comes to a close, the careers of Victor Lawrence – as well as Lily D. McNair, Eric Osborne and Marian Croak – are not just triumphs in their own right, but a symbol of inspiration for future generations of innovators.