Black History Month: Celebrating African American Telephony Inventors and Innovators – Marian R. Croak

Feb 16, 2023, 15:05 PM by Carolyn Pilgrom

Alvaria and our global employees are proud to celebrate Black History Month and the African American contributors to the field of telephony with this five-part series. 

In part two of our exploration of African American inventors that made major contributions to telephony we celebrate a woman whose research in VOIP technology has made communications much easier. The idea for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology was thought up in 1969 as a way to have communications that could survive war and allow research data to travel easier. It wasn’t until 1995 when this innovator created VoIP, allowing packets of data to carry voice and video over the internet, that the original goal from 1969 was realized.

Zoom meetings and Microsoft Teams calls have become commonplace, even more so since the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020 which exponentially increased the number of remote students and workers.  None of this would have been possible without Marian R. Croak, the inventor of VoIP, which enables the use of an internet network for voice and multimedia communications.  As long as there is an internet connection, users can make a call, chat, or video call using this technology. 

Croak’s career in the technology industry is nothing short of impressive.  She holds more than 200 patents, many integral to the internet technologies we use daily.  An early advocate for making the switch from wired phone technologies to internet services, she has been a pioneer and forward thinker throughout her career. Her career spans three giants in telecommunications: AT&T, Bell Labs, and since 2014, the Vice President of Engineering at Google. In this role she continues her work expanding the use of the internet globally, working on responsible AI within Google’s Research division, expanding racial justice efforts at the conglomerate and continuing her goal of encouraging women and young girls in STEM careers.

References that you may recognize include pioneering the use of phone network services to enable the public to easily donate to humanitarian causes, used in 2010 to receive donations for the earthquake in Haiti.  


"Marian Rogers Croak Inventor Collectible Card"  from the United States Patent and Trademark Office

Modern inventors often do not get the recognition they deserve due to the sheer amount of information available to the public and what seems like a constant stream of change and innovation. Marian was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2022 and very few know. If you are interested in learning more about her, we encourage you to watch her biography video for her induction: Change for the Greater Good: The Marian Croak Story

            In part three of our series, we take a look at another modern inventor, without whom even Marian’s work may not be possible. This innovator’s work on transducers also made communication possible from anywhere, including wherever you are right this moment.