James Edward Maceo West (born February 10, 1931 in Prince Edward County, Virginia) is an American inventor and acoustician. Along with Gerhard Sessler, West developed the foil electret microphone in 1962. 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. 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 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 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. 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 of Technology and Innovation, 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. 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.