Dr. James E. West
Tech History

Dr. James E. West – Black History Month

If you have ever used any device in the past 50+ years, or are a rapper who has enjoyed dropping the mic, you have Dr. James E. West to thank– the inventor of the Electroacoustic Transducer Electret Microphone, better known as a “mic”.

Dr. James E. West, inventor of the electric microphone


Dr. James E. West attended Temple University and received a Bachelor’s degree in Physics was an intern with the Acoustics Research Department at Nokia Bell Labs through his undergraduate years, until he hired for a full-time position as an acoustical scientist by Bell Labs.

Invention and Scientific Contributions

West teamed up with Dr. Gerhard Sessler and developed the patent for the the foil electret microphone in 1962 while developing instruments for human hearing research. Nearly 90 percent of more than two billion microphones produced annually are based on the principles of their invention and are used in our everyday audio recording devices. West alone holds 47 US patents and over 200 foreign patents from his 40-year career with Bell Laboratories. He would later retire from Bell Labs and become a Whiting School of Engineering Electrical Department Research Professor at John Hopkins University and has authored a number of scientific papers.


West has received numerous awards and honors including a Fellow of IEEE, Industrial Research Institute’s Achievement Award (1998), New Jersey Inventor of the Year (1995) and inducted in the Inventors Hall of Fame (1999). More recently, he was honored at John Hopkins and received the Benjamin Franklin Medical Award in Electrical Engineering (2010).

James Hopkins University Gazette

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