May 10, 2010

James B. West of WSE receives Benjamin Franklin Medal

James B. West, a researcher in the Whiting School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been awarded the 2010 Benjamin Franklin Medical Award in Electrical Engineering.

The prestigious award was one of 11 presented this year by the Franklin Institute to honor accomplishments in science, technology and business.

Since 1824, the Philadelphia-based institute, founded in honor of Benjamin Franklin, has given awards to many prominent figures, including Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Marie and Pierre Curie, Orville Wright and Jane Goodall.

West was honored along with Gerhard M. Sessler of the Damstadt University of Technology in Germany, with whom he worked at Bell Laboratories and in 1962 invented the first practical and inexpensive electret microphone, which now serves as the basis of 90 percent of the more than 2 billion microphones produced annually, including those in professional microphones, cell phones, hearing aids, baby monitors and video cameras.

West holds more than 40 U.S. patents and has received numerous awards. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999.

The black-tie award ceremony and dinner, considered to be one of the pre-eminent social events in Philadelphia, was held on April 29. Among the other 2010 recipients was Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who received the Bower Award for Business Leadership.