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!)
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.