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James E. West

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Biography

James E. West was born on 10 February 1931 in Prince Edward County, Virginia. He received his degree from Temple University and joined Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ in 1957. His work centered on electroacoustics, physical acoustics, and architectural acoustics.

In 1962 he and Gerhard Sessler co-invented the foil electret microphone. Because it is effective and low in cost, the electret microphone has become extremely common. Almost 90% of all microphones today are based on electret microphone principles.

Dr. West spent 40 years at Bell Laboratories, and he was awarded over 40 U.S. patents and more than 200 patents outside the U.S.

He is a Life Fellow of the IEEE, and is a member of the IEEE Communications Society. He has authored numerous papers for IEEE transactions and conference proceedings. He is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Acoustical Society of America, and he was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999. He is active in a program that encourages minority high school students to experience science with the assistance of mentors at Bell Labs.