Updated: Aug 24, 2019
James West (February 10, 1931- Present) 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.
James West (February 10, 1931- Present) was born in Farmville, 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."
West received a master'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.
West invented the foil electret microphone in 1962 while developing instruments for human hearing research. Compared to the previous condenser microphones, the electret microphone has higher capacitance and does not require a DC bias. West and Sessler optimized the mechanical and surface parameters of the system. 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.
“James West.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 23 June 2019, www.biography.com/inventor/james-west.