HISTORICALLY BLACK: JAMES WEST

Posted: February 8, 2011 by Jay Rasean in Kasual
James West
February 1931 –

Dr. James West is the first person I have featured this month that is still very much alive, demonstrating that historic accomplishments-as far as inventions are concerned, have indeed happened in our life time. James West is credited for creating a specific type of microphone, along with fellow scientist Gerhard M. Sessler at Bell Laboratories. The two men perfected a type of condenser microphone in 1962 ,officially known as an Electroacoustic Transducer Electret Microphone. This microphone was a great success due to its high performance, acoustical accuracy and reliability, and not to mention it was cost effective.

If you talk on the phone-which is something that everyone does with out a doubt, you’ve used technology created by West. All of you musicians and artists out there; rappers, singers, and poets a like, should all be thankful for this invention. This microphone went on to become the most common type of microphone and is an important component in high-quality recording. A perfected version of this microphone is still used today (though not as cost effective).  The microphone technology created by West and Sessler accounts for 90% of the components in microphones built today, and is the heart of most new telephones being produced.



As I mentioned, James West is very much alive. After he retired from Bell Laboratories, West joined the Whiting School within Johns Hopkins University, where he is a research professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. West also founded the Association of Black Laboratory Employees or ABLE, as well as the Cooperative Research Fellowship Program, and a Summer Research Program for college students. Aside from his work with college students, West is currently the leader of a program aimed at minority high school students. In this program he encourages them to understand the importance and the necessary nature of science.

James West is living proof of the endless contributions made by African-American scientist and inventors. He is an instrumental figure in creating the technology for telephones, which are extremely important in this society. His technology has also helped to sustain the careers of many African-Americans today, a career in the world entertainment, more spefically music. West is the first black man to further the advancement of telecommunication through the creation of his technology. Among all else, James West is a reason why black history month should be celebrated all year ’round.

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