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Dr. Betty Harris is one bombshell of an inventor. Her achievements in researching how to detect explosives has made an invaluable impact on the safety of U.S. military personnel.
The seventh child of Legertha Thompson Wright and Henry Hudson (Jake) Wright, she was born July 29, 1940 and has eleven siblings.
Her formative years were spent on a family farm along the banks of the Ouachita River in Louisiana.
Brilliant beyond her years, Dr. Betty Harris began college at the age of 16, earning a B.S. in chemistry while minoring in Mathematics from Southern University in 1961. Two years later she would earn a M.S. in chemistry from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta).
For the next decade, she taught chemistry and mathematics at the college level and also completed doctoral work at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee before earning her Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico.
The U.S. Military is safer because of Dr. Betty Harris
In 1986, she patented a simple and extremely sensitive spot test for the presence of 1,3,5-triamino-2,4,6-trinitrobenzene (TATB). Her innovation allowed the military and private industry to quickly ascertain the presence of potentially explosive material.
Dr. Betty Harris worked for more than 20 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in high explosives research and development and environmental management and restoration.
She also recruited women and people of color, establishing a summer program for promising high school students.
Dr. Betty Harris was also the president of the New Mexico Business and Professional Women’s Organization, and a leader for Women in Science and Engineering and the American Society for the Advancement of Science. As an active 50+ year member of the American Chemical Society, Dr. Harris has been a proton (positively charged) for a mighty long time.
Spoken like a true pioneer, Dr. Betty Harris once said, “As a nation, we must continue to provide a comprehensive and competitive education in science and engineering for our young people. We must always encourage and support them, for without research and development, progress in technology and information transfer will not occur.”