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James West is an American inventor who developed the foil electret microphone, now used in 90 percent of all contemporary microphones, in 1962.
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Born in Virginia in 1931, James West attended Temple University before becoming an inventor. Along with Gerhard M. Sessler, West developed the foil electret microphone, an inexpensive, compact device that is now used in 90 percent of all contemporary microphones—from telephones to camcorders to baby monitors. Their invention was developed in 1962 while working at Bell Labs. West has more than 250 patents.
"Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Marconi—you know, all my heroes—these were people that, when I grew up, I wanted to be like them."
"What I hope is that further studies will allow us to be able to determine the performance of the cardiovascular system non-invasively, with a simple device that you could strap on."
"Today, if I have to change an outlet, I never go and throw the switch."
Inventor James West was born on February 10, 1931, in Prince Edward County, Virginia. West headed to Temple University in 1953 to study physics, and worked during the summers as an intern for the Acoustics Research Department at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hills, New Jersey. He received a bachelor's in physics in 1957, and was hired by Bell Labs in a full-time position as an acoustical scientist.
In 1960, while at Bell, West teamed up with fellow scientist Gerhard M. Sessler to develop an inexpensive, highly sensitive, compact microphone. In 1962, they finished development on the electret microphone. By 1968, the microphone was in mass production. James and Sessler's invention became the industry standard, with 90 percent of all contemporary microphones—including telephones, tape recorders, camcorders, baby monitors and hearing aids—using their technology.
Upon retiring from Bell in 2001, West became a research professor at Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. During his career, he has developed more than 250 patents on microphones and related discoveries involving polymer foil electrets.
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