From the Segregated South to Bell Labs to the AI Frontier
The invention that made James E. West famous came out of his conviction that he could make things better.
West was born into a world in dire need of improvement. He grew up during the Great Depression in rural Virginia, where racial segregation laws denied his family many opportunities. But he challenged the status quo with every step forward in his education. In 1953, he entered Philadelphia’s Temple University, and he soon landed a coveted summer internship at Bell Labs.
His supervisors asked him to work on headphones used in acoustics experiments, which weren’t able to transmit ultra-precise pulses of sound. West built a new kind of headphones with a transducer made from a solid dielectric material. Then he went back to college.
February 12, 2019
Author: By Eliza Strickland/IEEE Spectrum
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