February 10, 1931 - Legendary Black Scientist James Edward West was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia.

James West is a U.S. inventor and professor who, in 1962, developed the electret transducer technology later used in 90 percent of contemporary microphones.
West is the son of one of the "Hidden Figures" human computers who worked for NASA at Langley Research Center. West received a bachelor's 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.

Inventions and scientific contributions
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. 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."
 
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. 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.
 
Who Is James West?

James West attended Temple University before working for Bell Labs. Along with Gerhard M. Sessler, he developed the foil electret microphone, an inexpensive, compact device that is now used in 90 percent of all contemporary microphones. A prolific writer as well, West has more than 250 patents and became a professor at Johns Hopkins University.

Early Life

West was born on February 10, 1931, in Prince Edward County, Virginia. As a child, he was intrigued by how things worked and enjoyed taking apart appliances. "If I had a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, anything that could be opened was in danger," West would later recollect. "I had this need to know what was inside."

After an accident with a radio he had tinkered with, West became enthralled with the concept of electricity. He knew he wanted to pursue his interest in science academically, though his parents were concerned about future job prospects for an African American scientist, due to the racism and Jim Crow laws of the South. They preferred for him to become a physician.

Education

Undeterred, West headed to Temple University in 1953 to study physics and worked during the summers as an intern for the Acoustics Research Department at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. He received a bachelor's degree in physics in 1957, and was hired for a full-time position as an acoustical scientist by Bell.

Develops Electret Microphone

In 1960, while at Bell, West teamed up with fellow scientist Gerhard M. Sessler to develop an inexpensive, highly sensitive, compact microphone. In 1962, they finished development on the product, which relied on their invention of electret transducers. By 1968, the electret microphone was in mass production. West's and Sessler's invention became the industry standard, and today, 90 percent of all contemporary microphones — including the ones found in telephones, tape recorders, camcorders, baby monitors and hearing aids — use their technology.

 
source: bigirophy.com

 

Timeline:

1957:

West received a master's degree in Physics from Temple University in 1957.

1962:

Along with Gerhard Sessler, West invented the foil electret microphone in 1962 while developing instruments for human hearing research.

2001:

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.

2006:

James Edward Maceo West was awarded National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2006.

2007:

In 2007, West received an honorary doctorate from NJIT.

2021:

At age 89 in 2021, he is still an active inventor working on a device to detect pneumonia in infant lungs.

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