James Edward Maceo West – African American Inventor

James Edward Maceo West

Born February 10, 1931, in FarmvillePrince Edward County, Virginia) is an 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.

Along with Gerhard Sessler, West developed 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 do 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. West measured the acoustics of Philharmonic Hall in New York City. Recently, West teamed with Ilene Busch-Vishniac and studied the acoustic environment of hospitals showing that hospitals are in general too loud and that the noise levels affect staff and patients. 

Dr. West is the recipient of the National Medal 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 and an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering. 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.

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