We recently posted about past recipients of the James E. West Fellowship which provides funding to minority students in their pursuit of graduate-level degrees in acoustics. Today, we’d like to highlight some of the publications of the man who the award is named in honor of: inventor and past ASA President, James E. West.

Besides being President of the ASA from 1998 to 1999, he’s also a recipient of the Silver Medal in Engineering Acoustics and the Gold Medal. After a retiring from a career at Bell Labs, he went on to start a second career as a research professor at Johns Hopkins University. Over the years, his research has helped not only the acoustics community, but the world at large.

Perhaps West’s most well-known work is his 1966 publication with G. M. Sessler about the development of foil-electret microphones. This Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA) article revolutionized the microphone industry; these types of microphones have been used in everything from hearing aids and phones to GPS devices and underwater instruments. This invention actually got him inducted into The National Inventors Hall of Fame (You can read more about the impact of the electret microphone in this Reflection!)

James E. West Tuning Fork

ASA President Lawrence Crum (R) presents President-Elect James E. West (L) with the ASA President’s Tuning Fork. (June 1998)

But, of course, West continued to research and impact the acoustics community after this seminal work. More recently, he coauthored this JASA paper about noise in hospital emergency rooms with Douglas Orellana and Ilene J. Busch-Vishniac. He and Busch-Vishniac also wrote an early Acoustics Today article about attracting more undergraduate students to studying acoustics.

Want to learn more about this pioneer of acoustics research and his contributions? Check out “A History of Consumer Microphones” and “Being a Black Scholar” in Acoustics Today!

James E. West Silver Medal

ASA President Robert Apfel (L) presents the Silver Medal in Engineering Acoustics to James E. West (R). (Nov 1995)

James E. West Gold Medal

ASA President William Yost (R) presents the Gold Medal to James E. West (L). (June 2006)


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This