At the age of 80, West has dedicated 60 years of his life to the advancement of science and to provide opportunities for minorities and women in the field of science.
West has over 250 patents, but his most significant invention is the electret microphone, which he along with German scientist, Gerhard Sessler invented in 1961.
To this date the electret microphone has been made over a billion times and is used in cell phones, cameras and many other devices.
While at Temple University, West interned at Bell Labs where he would work after he graduated. West would wind up working at Bell Labs for over 40 years. During his time there, he would not only advance science but would provide many opportunities for African Americans, other minorities and women to follow in his footsteps, which he would continue to do as a professor at John Hopkins University.
West co-founded the Association of Black Laboratory Employees (ABLE), in order to provide give African Americans a chance to excel in the field of science. ABLE has helped to establish more that 500 Phds for minorities and women through a summer research program at Bell Labs.
Several of the people who James West provided opportunities for came to John Hopkins University to honor the man who had guided them.
Some of the people who came to honor James West were 1996 physics Nobel Prize winner, Douglass Osheroff, 2008 Presidential Medal Of Freedom winner, and neurosurgeon, Ben Carson and Princeton Professor , William Massey, who was a colleague of Dr. West’s at Bell Labs.
Massey showed West’s legacy by bringing three African American protégés from the ABLE Bell Labs summer internship program to present scientific research in their various fields. Otis Jennings, a professor at Columbia Business School presented scientific research on the inequality of the American Justice system. Robert Hamshire, a professor at Carnegie Mellon presented research on energy saving through shared usage of public cars and bicycles.
James West’s legacy is firmly implanted in history. Not only did he win the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering, but he is also an inductee to the National Inventors Hall of Fame and one of Bill Nye The Science Guys “real cool scientists.”
Still, the true test of Dr. West’s legacy is the hundreds of African American scientists he guided, mentored and inspired.