NASA News

Chris Rink
757-864-6786, 757-344-7711
christopher.p.rink@nasa.gov
02.03.12
 
MEDIA ADVISORY : 12-010
 
 
NASA Talk Features Pioneer Researcher and Inventor
 
 
HAMPTON, Va. -- Can you hear me now?

Yes, thanks to James West, a former Bell Laboratories Fellow at Lucent Technologies who developed the electret condenser microphone (ECM). West will speak at NASA's Langley Research Center here on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

West, currently a research professor at Johns Hopkins University, will present, "Modern Microphones and New Directions in Sensors," at 2 p.m. in the Reid Conference Center. Roughly 2 billion ECMs are made each year throughout the world for most applications ranging from toys and telephones to professional recording studios.

West will be available to answer questions from the media during a news briefing at 1:15 p.m. that day. Media who wish to do so should contact Chris Rink at 757-864-6786, or by e-mail at chris.rink@nasa.gov, by noon on the day of the talk for credentials and entry to the Center.

That same evening at 7:30, West will present, "Historical Contributions by Underrepresented Minorities to Improving the Quality of Life through Technology," for the general public at the Virginia Air & Space Center in downtown Hampton. This Sigma Series event is free and no reservations are required.

West's pioneering research led to the development of electret transducers for sound recording and voice communication. Almost 90 percent of all microphones built today are based on the principles first published in the early 1960s. This simple but rugged transducer is the heart of most new telephones and can be found in most consumer and professional microphone applications. He holds more than 50 U.S. and about 200 foreign patents on various microphones and techniques for making polymer electrets and transducers.

For his Sigma Series talk, West will discuss how throughout history people of color have made substantial contributions to the technology success in this country. Yet the world and the black community in particular, are mostly unaware of both past and present black scientists and technologists who have made Earth shattering changes in the way we live and enjoy life. He will also discuss programs for children aimed at improving knowledge of science and technology.

West was inducted into The National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999 for the invention of the electret microphone. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering; and a Fellow, past president and past member of the Executive Council of Acoustical Society of America. West is a member of the Board of Directors of The National Inventors Hall of Fame, past member of the National Academy of EngineeringĀ¹s Committee on Diversity in the Engineering Workforce and a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of The International Symposium on Electrets.

West is the recipient of the Acoustical Society of America's Silver Medal in Engineering Acoustics, an honorary doctor of science degree from New Jersey Institute of Technology, an honorary doctor of engineering from Michigan State University, the National Medal of Technology and the Franklin Medal in Engineering.

For more information about NASA Langley's Colloquium and Sigma Series Lectures, visit:
shemesh.larc.nasa.gov/Lectures

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