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James Edward Maceo West

James E. West
Born (1931-02-10) 10 February 1931
Farmville, Prince Edward County, Virginia
Residence USA
Citizenship American
Fields physics
Institutions Bell Labs
Johns Hopkins University
Notable awards ASA Gold Medal (2006), National Medal of Technology and Innovation

James Edward Maceo West (born February 10, 1931 in Farmville, Prince Edward County, Virginia) is an American inventor and acoustician. Along with Gerhard Sessler, West developed the foil electret microphone in 1962 while developing instruments for human hearing research.[1] Nearly 90 percent of the 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, and audio recording devices among others.[2] West received a BS in Physics from Temple University in 1957. He holds over 250 foreign and U.S. patents for the production and design of microphones and techniques for creating polymer foil electrets.

First patent on foil electret microphone by G. M. Sessler and J. E. West (pages 1 to 3)

In 2001, West retired from Johns Hopkins University where he is currently a research professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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.[3] 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." [4] 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.[5] Dr. West is the recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation,[6] 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[7] and an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering.[8] 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.


  1. ^ "James Edward West". 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  2. ^ "James B. West of WSE receives Benjamin Franklin Medal : Johns Hopkins University – The Gazette". 2010-05-10. Retrieved 2012-03-09. 
  3. ^ "Ian Moss: America's Diversity Can Provide Prosperity". Retrieved 2012-03-09. 
  4. ^ "ABLE History -Leaders of African Descent". Retrieved 2012-03-09. 
  5. ^ "James Edward West: Electret Microphone Inventor". 2008. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  6. ^ "James Edward West Pictures - Bush Presents National Medals Of Science And Techno". 2007-07-27. Retrieved 2012-03-09. 
  7. ^ "Invent Now | Hall of Fame | Search | Inventor Profile". 1931-02-10. Retrieved 2012-03-09. 
  8. ^ "National Academy of Engineering Members Directory". 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 

External links

  • Biography of
  • National Academy of Engineering Biography
  • Profile on
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