James Edward Maceo West

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James Edward Maceo West
Born (1931-02-10) February 10, 1931 (age 88)
ResidenceUnited States
Awards ASA Gold Medal (2006), National Medal of Technology and Innovation
Scientific career
Fields Physics, electrical engineering
Institutions Bell Labs
Johns Hopkins University

James Edward Maceo West (born February 10, 1931 in Farmville, Prince Edward County, Virginia) is an African American inventor and acoustician. He holds over 250 foreign and U.S. patents for the production and design of microphones and techniques for creating polymer foil electrets.

Farmville, Virginia Town in Virginia, United States

Farmville is a town in Prince Edward and Cumberland counties in the U.S. state of Virginia. The population was 8,216 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Prince Edward County.

Prince Edward County, Virginia County in the United States

Prince Edward County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 23,368. Its county seat is Farmville.

Patent set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee so that he has a temporary monopoly

A patent is a form of intellectual property. A patent gives its owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, and importing an invention for a limited period of time, usually twenty years. The patent rights are granted in exchange for an enabling public disclosure of the invention. In most countries patent rights fall under civil law and the patent holder needs to sue someone infringing the patent in order to enforce his or her rights. In some industries patents are an essential form of competitive advantage; in others they are irrelevant.



First patent on foil electret microphone by G. M. Sessler and J. E. West (pages 1 to 3) US Patent 3118022 - Gerhard M. Sessler James E. West - Bell labs - electroacustic transducer - foil electret condenser microphone 1962 1964 - pages 1-3.png
First patent on foil electret microphone by G. M. Sessler and J. E. West (pages 1 to 3)

West received a masters degree in Physics from Temple University in 1957. In 2001, West retired from Lucent Technologies after a distinguished 40-year career at Bell Laboratories where he received the organization's highest honor, being named a Bell Laboratories Fellow. West then joined the faculty of the Whiting School at Johns Hopkins University where he is currently a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In 2007, West received an honorary doctorate from NJIT. [1]

Physics Study of the fundamental properties of matter and energy

Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its motion, and behavior through space and time, and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.

Temple University public research university in Philadelphia, United States

Temple University is a state-related research university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1884 by the Baptist minister Russell Conwell. In 1882, Conwell came to Pennsylvania to lead the Grace Baptist Church while he began tutoring working-class citizens late at night to accommodate their work schedules. These students, later dubbed "night owls", were taught in the basement of Conwell's Baptist Temple, hence the origin of the university's name and mascot. By 1907, the institution revised its institutional status and was incorporated as a university.

Johns Hopkins University Private research university in Baltimore, Maryland

Johns Hopkins University is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, the university was named for its first benefactor, the American entrepreneur, abolitionist, and philanthropist Johns Hopkins. His $7 million bequest —of which half financed the establishment of Johns Hopkins Hospital—was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States up to that time. Daniel Coit Gilman, who was inaugurated as the institution's first president on February 22, 1876, led the university to revolutionize higher education in the U.S. by integrating teaching and research. Adopting the concept of a graduate school from Germany's ancient Heidelberg University, Johns Hopkins University is considered the first research university in the United States. Over the course of several decades, the university has led all U.S. universities in annual research and development expenditures. In fiscal year 2016, Johns Hopkins spent nearly $2.5 billion on research.

Inventions and scientific contributions

Along with Gerhard Sessler, West invented the foil electret microphone in 1962 while developing instruments for human hearing research. [2] Compared to the previous condenser microphones, the electret microphone has higher capacitance and does not require a DC bias. [3] West and Sessler optimized the mechanical and surface parameters of the system. [4] Nearly 90 percent of more than two billion microphones produced annually are based on the principles of the foil-electret and are used in everyday items such as telephones, camcorders, hearing aids, baby monitors, and audio recording devices among others. [5] West measured the acoustics of Philharmonic Hall in New York City. [6] Recently, West teamed with Ilene Busch-Vishniac and studied the acoustic environment of hospitals showing that hospitals are in general too loud and that the noise levels affect staff and patients. [7] Dr. West has over 250 patents to his name. [8] At age 87 in 2018, he is still an active inventor working on a device to detect pneumonia in infant lungs. [9]

Electret microphone

An electret microphone is a type of electrostatic capacitor-based microphone, which eliminates the need for a polarizing power supply by using a permanently charged material.

Supporting minorities in the sciences

In addition to his many contributions to acoustical science, throughout his career West has been a fervent advocate for greater diversity in the fields of science and technology. [10] While at Bell Laboratories, West co-founded the Association of Black Laboratory Employees (ABLE), an organization formed to "address placement and promotional concerns of Black Bell Laboratories employees." [11] He was also instrumental in the creation and development of both the Corporate Research Fellowship Program (CRFP) for graduate students pursuing terminal degrees in the sciences, as well as the Summer Research Program, which together provided opportunities for over 500 non-white graduate students. [12] Since 2015, Dr. West has served on the Board of Directors of the Ingenuity Project, a Baltimore non-profit that supports talented middle and high school students in science and math. [13]


Dr. West is the recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, [14] and in 2010, along with Gerhard M. Sessler, West was the recipient of The Franklin Institute's Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering. He is also an inductee to the National Inventors Hall of Fame [15] and an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering. [16] He is also the recipient of numerous other honors and awards. However, West feels that his greatest accomplishments are his four children Melanie, Laurie, James and Ellington.[ citation needed ]

National Medal of Technology and Innovation award

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is an honor granted by the President of the United States to American inventors and innovators who have made significant contributions to the development of new and important technology. The award may be granted to a specific person, to a group of people or to an entire organization or corporation. It is the highest honor the United States can confer to a US citizen for achievements related to technological progress.

Gerhard M. Sessler German scientist

Gerhard M. Sessler is a German inventor and scientist. Together with James E. West, Sessler invented the foil electric microphone at Bell Laboratories in 1962 and the silicon microphone in 1983.

National Inventors Hall of Fame Award

The National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) is an American not-for-profit organization which recognizes individual engineers and inventors who hold a U.S. patent of highly significant technology. Founded in 1973, its primary mission is to "honor the people responsible for the great technological advances that make human, social and economic progress possible." Besides the Hall of Fame, it also operates a museum in Alexandria, Virginia, and a former middle school in Akron, Ohio, and sponsors educational programs, a collegiate competition, and special projects all over the United States to encourage creativity among students.

Related Research Articles

Absolute pitch (AP), widely referred to as perfect pitch, is a rare auditory phenomenon characterized by the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone.

Microphone a device that converts sound into an electrical signal

A microphone, colloquially nicknamed mic or mike, is a transducer that converts sound into an electrical signal.

An otoacoustic emission (OAE) is a sound which is generated from within the inner ear. Having been predicted by Thomas Gold in 1948, its existence was first demonstrated experimentally by David Kemp in 1978 and otoacoustic emissions have since been shown to arise through a number of different cellular and mechanical causes within the inner ear. Studies have shown that OAEs disappear after the inner ear has been damaged, so OAEs are often used in the laboratory and the clinic as a measure of inner ear health.

James Loton Flanagan was an electrical engineer, and was Rutgers University's vice president for research until 2004. He was also director of Rutgers' Center for Advanced Information Processing and the Board of Governors Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Articulatory synthesis

Articulatory synthesis refers to computational techniques for synthesizing speech based on models of the human vocal tract and the articulation processes occurring there. The shape of the vocal tract can be controlled in a number of ways which usually involves modifying the position of the speech articulators, such as the tongue, jaw, and lips. Speech is created by digitally simulating the flow of air through the representation of the vocal tract.

Peter Westervelt was an American physicist, noted for his work in nonlinear acoustics, and Professor Emeritus of Physics at Brown University.

Harry Ferdinand Olson was a prominent engineer at RCA Victor and a pioneer in the field of 20th century acoustical engineering.

The Eduard Rhein Foundation was founded in 1976 in Hamburg (Germany) by Eduard Rhein. The goal of the foundation is to promote scientific research, learning, arts, and culture. This is done in particular by granting awards for outstanding achievements in research an/or development in the areas of radio, television and information technology.

The Minnaert resonance is the acoustic resonance frequency of a single bubble in an infinite domain of water. The resonant frequency is given by

A Fessenden oscillator is an electro-acoustic transducer invented by Reginald Fessenden, with development starting in 1912 at the Submarine Signal Company of Boston. It was the first successful acoustical echo ranging device. Similar in operating principle to a dynamic voice coil loudspeaker, it was an early kind of transducer, capable of creating underwater sounds and of picking up their echoes.

Jan D. Achenbach Dutch-American scientist in engineering

Jan Drewes Achenbach is a professor emeritus at Northwestern University. Achenbach was born in the northern region of the Netherlands, in Leeuwarden. He studied aeronautics at Delft University of Technology, which he finished with a M.Sc. degree in 1959. Thereafter, he went to the United States, Stanford University, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1962. After working for a year as a preceptor at Columbia University, he was then appointed as assistant professor at Northwestern University.

Winston E. Kock American electrical engineer

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Ilene Busch-Vishniac is an American-born mechanical engineer and university administrator. She served as Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University from 1998 to 2003. then resigned the position to serve as President of the Acoustical Society of America, an elected non-gratis position, from 2003 to 2005. She served as Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs at McMaster University from 2007 to 2012, and as President of the University of Saskatchewan from 2012 to 2014 when she was terminated. She has written research papers for the ASME on matters related to tribology.

Research and Development Council of New Jersey

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Helen Czerski British physicist

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Benjamin B. Bauer (1913–1979) was a Russian-born American acoustic engineer, who worked for the Shure microphone company and produced over 100 patents. His early work in acoustics lead to the development of modern sound technology via the Uniphase Electrical Principle. This principle is the source of the famous Unidyne Microphone's name and functionality.

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  1. "A Special Dual Presentation | Technology and Society Forum". tsf.njit.edu. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  2. "James Edward West". Cpnas.org. 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  3. Sessler, G. M.; West, J. E. (1966-12-01). "Foil‐Electret Microphones". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 40 (6): 1433–1440. Bibcode:1966ASAJ...40.1433S. doi:10.1121/1.1910245. ISSN   0001-4966.
  4. Sessler, G. M.; West, J. E. (1965-06-01). "Electrostatic Microphones with Foil Electret". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 37 (6): 1209–1210. Bibcode:1965ASAJ...37S1209S. doi:10.1121/1.1939579. ISSN   0001-4966.
  5. "James B. West of WSE receives Benjamin Franklin Medal : Johns Hopkins University – The Gazette". Gazette.jhu.edu. 2010-05-10. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  6. Schroeder, M. R.; Atal, B. S.; Sessler, G. M.; West, J. E. (1966-08-01). "Acoustical Measurements in Philharmonic Hall (New York)". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 40 (2): 434–440. Bibcode:1966ASAJ...40..434S. doi:10.1121/1.1910092. ISSN   0001-4966.
  7. Busch-Vishniac, Ilene J.; West, James E.; Barnhill, Colin; Hunter, Tyrone; Orellana, Douglas; Chivukula, Ram (2005-12-01). "Noise levels in Johns Hopkins Hospital". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 118 (6): 3629–3645. Bibcode:2005ASAJ..118.3629B. doi:10.1121/1.2118327. ISSN   0001-4966.
  8. Britto, Brittany (2018-05-24). "At 87, this Baltimore inventor has 250 patents to his name — and he's still at it". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  9. Perna, Algerina. "Inventor James E. West has more than 250 patents to his name including a device that detects a diseased lung". The Baltimore Sun Video. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  10. "Ian Moss: America's Diversity Can Provide Prosperity". Huffingtonpost.com. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  11. "ABLE History -Leaders of African Descent". Ableinc.org. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  12. "James Edward West: Electret Microphone Inventor". www.black-inventor.com. 2008. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  13. "Our Team". The Ingenuity Project. The Ingenuity Project. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  14. "James Edward West Pictures - Bush Presents National Medals Of Science And Techno". 2007-07-27. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  15. "Invent Now | Hall of Fame | Search | Inventor Profile". Invent.org. 1931-02-10. Archived from the original on 2012-02-15. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  16. "National Academy of Engineering Members Directory". Nae.edu. 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-12.