Killingly Historical Society

Oliver Burlingame Jacob

From Windham County Transcript, February 5, 1976

“Just another of Jake’s crazy ideas,” his friends thought, but “crazy or not, it worked!” recalls inventor Oliver Burlingame Jacobs, a native of Danielson and pioneer in the field of transatlantic telephone communications.

Jacobs, a Killingly High School graduate, Class of 1905, enjoys recalling fond memories of his early days at Bell Labs. “It was the time of the Depression, and I was in danger of being laid off. I figured I had better find something to do that would be worthwhile,” he explained as he recently described his invention, one of 20 that are patented, which made the laying of the first transatlantic telephone cables possible.

“Nobody had ever thought of using a sequence of vacuum tube amplifiers on the bottom of the ocean (his invention that formed the basic principle upon which modern transatlantic communications operate today). “To energize these tubes very low voltages and currents are used since the bottom of the ocean is the ‘quietest places on earth’,” Jacobs asserted. Another of Jacobs’ inventions keeps the current supplied to the cable constant despite differences in earth potential due to magnetic storm disturbances.

Beginning his career at AT&T just prior to his senior year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Jacobs was transferred to Bell Labs in 1925 and continued in their employ until his retirement in 1954 at the age of 65. “Then another company leased my services to the Bell Labs until my ‘second’ retirement in 1963,” he recalls with obvious delight.

Active in World War I, Jacobs served on the staff of the chief signal officer in charge of providing telephone and telegraph lines throughout France.

Jacobs presently lives in Morristown, N.J., with his second wife, Marian, whom he wed in August of 1975. “We’re having a wonderful time,” he declares, “and we hope to have many more good years together.” The spirit that made Oliver Burlingame Jacobs a great inventor is strong as he continues to look ahead.