Today in Black History 07/27/2015 | James Edward Maceo West - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 07/27/2015 | James Edward Maceo West

July 27, 2007 James Edward Maceo West received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor the United States confers on people for achievements related to technological progress, from President George W. Bush. West was born February 10, 1931 in Farmville, Virginia. He was fascinated with electronics as a young boy. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Temple University in 1957. After graduating, he was hired by Bell Laboratories as an acoustical scientist. West and a co-worker developed the foil electret microphone in 1962 and received patent number 3,118,022 January 14, 1964. Their device was inexpensive to manufacture, compact, durable, and could hold a charge without being connected to a power source. Approximately 90% of microphones used today are based on their invention, including telephones, hearing aids, baby monitors, and other everyday items. Also while at Bell Labs, West co-founded the Association of Black Laboratory Employees to address placement and promotional concerns of Black Bell Laboratory employees. West retired in 2001 is currently a research professor at John Hopkins University. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1998 and inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999.

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