Death of James Jesperson, Co-Inventor of Closed Captioning

January 30, 2012 in Uncategorized
James Jespersen, co-inventor of closed captioning, dies at 77

James Jesperson with his 1980 Emmy

Award for his work on closed captioning

By Joanne Ostrow, The Denver Post, 1/24/2012

James Leland Jespersen of Boulder died of a heart attack in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, on Nov. 24 while visiting a friend.

Jespersen, 77, a co-inventor of closed captioning for the hearing impaired, won an Emmy Award for his work in 1980 and was honored at the White House. He worked as a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder in radio astronomy and communication theory.

Jespersen was born in Weldona. During high school in Fort Morgan, he won the state championship in high jumping.

He majored in art and physics at the University of Colorado, where he attended undergraduate and graduate school, and pursued physics as a career.

“He had loved science from a young age,” said his daughter Christy, a professor at Western State College of Colorado in Gunnison. “He blew up his closet in a chemistry experiment” in his childhood home. “He was always tinkering.”

He wrote and co-wrote more than 100 scientific papers and seven books, winning many awards. He also was an artist, carpenter, beekeeping student, voracious reader and writer of poetry. He moved to Seattle for 18 months to care for his ailing daughter Ann. He worked in England, India and Korea, and traveled to Kenya, China and Australia.

In addition to his daughter Christy, he is survived by a son, Andy of Boulder; his son-in-law, David Plante of Gunnison; his sister and brother-in-law, Jodelle and Jim Nelson of Arizona; and his nephew Scott Nelson of Arvada. He is preceded in death by his partner, Erin O’Niell; his daughter Ann Jespersen; and his nephew Craig Nelson.

The family plans to hold a celebration of Jespersen’s life this summer. Donations can be made in memory of his daughter to the Sarcoma Foundation of America.

Joanne Ostrow: 303-954-1830 or jostrow@denverpost.com