Great Engineers & Scientists Blog

Great Engineers & Scientists

In 1676, Sir Isaac Newton wrote "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants." In this blog, we take Newton's words to heart, and recognize the many great engineers and scientists upon whose shoulders we stand.

So who do you think of when you hear "Great Engineer"? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add him or her to the pantheon. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

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Dr. James West

Posted February 13, 2010 9:30 AM by nsbe

Majority of our modern day microphones are based on Dr. James Edward West's invention of the microphone in 1962. Dr West developed the Electroacoustic Transducer Electret Microphone with Gerhard Sessler, a colleague, while working at Bell laboratories. The foil-electret transducers they developed for the microphone helps in sound recording and voice communication. This is used in about 90% of all microphones and also at the heart of most new telephones, camcorders and tape recorders. The new microphone's light weight, high performance, small size, reliability, and its low cost made it widely used. He holds 47 US and over 200 international patents for his work polymer foil electrets.

Dr James West was born in Prince Edwards County, Virginia on February 10, 1931. He received his BS in Physics from Temple University in 1957. During his summer breaks he interned at Bell Laboratories and joined them full-time when he graduated from Temple University. He retired as a Bell Laboratories Fellow and Lucent Technologies in 2001. Dr West joined Whiting School at John Hopkins University staff, as a research professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department, after his 40 years career at Bell Laboratories.

He has always been involved himself in programs that aim in encouraging minorities to take more role in the sciences. Dr West was a co-foundation of the Association of Black Laboratory Employees (ABLE); it led to the establishment of the Cooperative Research Fellowship Program and the Summer Research Program for college students. The programs have helped more than 500 non-white students graduate with degrees in science, engineering and mathematics. Dr James West has received numerous awards including the U.S. National Medals of Technology, the Golden Torch Award in 1998 by the National Society of Black Engineers, the Lewis Howard Latimer Light Switch and Socket Award in 1989, and was chosen New Jersey Inventor of the Year for 1995 and inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999. He is a recipient of The Franklin Institute's 2010 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering with Gerhard Sessler.


The mission of NSBE is to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academiccally, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.


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