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James West
James Edward West, Ph.D., is a Bell Laboratories Fellow at Lucent Technologies where he specializes in electro, physical, and architectural acoustics. James West's research in the early 1960s led to the development of foil-electret transducers for sound recording and voice communication that are used in 90% of all microphones built today and at the heart of most new telephones being manufactured.

James west - patentThe new microphone became widely used because of its high performance, accuracy, and reliability, in addition to its low cost, small size, and light weight.

Born in Prince Edward County, Virginia on February 10, 1931, James West attended Temple University and interned at Bell Labs during his summer breaks. Upon his graduation in 1957, he joined Bell Labs and began work in electroacoustics, physical acoustics, and architectural acoustics. James Edward West (along with Gerhard Sessler) patented (#3,118,022) the electret microphone in 1964 while working at Bell Laboratories.

James West holds 47 U.S. and more than 200 foreign patents on microphones and techniques for making polymer foil-electrets. He has authored more than 100 papers and contributed to books on acoustics, solid state physics, and material science. James West has received numerous awards including the Golden Torch Award in 1998 sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers, the Lewis Howard Latimer Light Switch and Socket Award in 1989, and was chosen New Jersey Inventor of the Year for 1995 and inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999.

James West is currently the leader of a program aimed at minority high school students, which encourages them to experience science with the assistance of mentors at Bell Labs.

James West
In 1962, James West and Gerhard Sessler patented the electret microphone while working at Bell Laboratories.
Gerhard M. Sessler

Related Innovations
The History of Microphones
Black Inventors

©Mary Bellis


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