Anna J. Harrison
|Anna Jane Harrison|
December 23, 1912|
Benton City, Missouri
|Died||August 8, 1998
|Alma mater||B.A., 1933, M.A., 1937, Ph.D., 1940 in chemistry, B.A., 1935 in education University of Missouri|
|Known for||Professor of chemistry, Mount Holyoke College; first female President of the American Chemical Society|
|Notable awards||Twenty honorary degrees|
Anna Jane Harrison (December 23, 1912 – August 8, 1998) was an American organic chemist and a professor of chemistry at Mount Holyoke College for nearly forty years. She was the first female President of the American Chemical Society, and the recipient of twenty honorary degrees. She was nationally known for her teaching and was active nationally and internationally as a supporter of women in science.
Early life and education
She was born in Benton City, Missouri. Her parents, Albert Harrison and Mary Katherine Jones Harrison, were farmers. Her father died when she was seven, leaving her mother to manage the family farm and to care for Harrison and her elder brother. She attended high school in Mexico, Missouri where she became interested in science. She received her B.A. in 1933 in chemistry, a B.A. in 1935 in education, a M.A. in 1937 in chemistry, and a Ph.D. in 1940 in physical chemistry, all from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri.
While working towards her master's degree in chemistry, she taught elementary school at the one-room country school in Audrain County, Missouri, where she had attended school as a child. She then taught chemistry at H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, the coordinate women's college of Tulane University from 1940 to 1945.
In 1942 while on leave from teaching during World War II, Harrison conducted confidential defense research at the University of Missouri. In 1944, she conducted research on toxic smoke for the National Defense Research Committee, the A.J. Griner Co. in Kansas City, Missouri and Corning Glass Works in Corning, New York. This work was instrumental in creating field kits for the Army to collect and detect toxic smoke. The American Ceramic Society honored her with the Frank Forrest Award for her findings in this research.
In 1945, she joined the chemistry department at Mount Holyoke College as an assistant professor. She came to Mount Holyoke College to work with Emma Perry Carr, a renowned Mount Holyoke professor whom Harrison already knew. She became a full professor in the department in 1950 and served as the chair from 1960 to 1966. She retired from Mount Holyoke College in 1979. After retirement she taught at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Harrison's research focused on the structure of organic molecules, the absorption of organic compounds in ultraviolet and far ultraviolet regions, and photolysis. She received a grant from the Petroleum Research Fund Advisory Board of the American Chemical Society for "an experimental study of the far ultraviolet absorption spectra and photodecomposition products of selected organic compounds."
She served on the National Science Board from 1972 to 1978. In 1978 she became the first woman president of the American Chemical Society. She also served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1983.
As an educator and researcher, Harrison worked with many scientific organizations in the United States, particularly the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of American Colleges, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, the Education Commission of the States, the Manufacturing Chemists' Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, the National Science Board, the National Science Foundation, and the Universities Space Research Association's Lunar and Planetary Institute.
As a representative of these organizations, she traveled to India for both the National Science Foundation in 1971 and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1983; to Japan, Spain, and Thailand as president of the American Chemical Society in 1978; and to Antarctica in 1974 for the National Science Board.
She wrote articles for Journal of the American Chemical Society, Chemical & Engineering News and Encyclopaedia Britannica. She served on the editorial boards of the National Science Teachers Association's Journal of College Science Teaching and Chemical & Engineering News.
In 1989 she co-authored a textbook with Mount Holyoke College colleague Edwin S. Weaver entitled "Chemistry: A Search to Understand." The textbook was intended to "serve the needs of students whom she characterized as 'intellectually curious but not professionally driven.'"
She was interested in the support of science education by state and federal agencies, the role and status of women in science, and public health issues. One of her chief professional interests was the impact of science on society, and a major goal of her work was "providing information that voters and legislators could use to form effective judgments on scientific and technical issues."
- Like her colleague Emma Perry Carr, Harrison used spectroscopy to figure out the molecular structures of different compounds. She also used a technique called flash photolysis to study chemical reactions. In flash photolysis, molecules in the gas phase are first exposed to a strong flash of laser light. The light causes the molecules to break apart, and their atoms reassemble in different ways to create new molecules. While this is happening, spectroscopy is used to study how the molecules break apart and how their atoms reassemble by identifying what molecular fragments exist for short periods between the time the chemical reaction begins and when it ends.
- Saxon, Wolfgang (16 August 1998). "Anna J. Harrison, 85, Led U.S. Chemical Society". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Biographies: Anna Jane Harrison (1912 - 1998)". Women in Health Sciences. Bernard Becker Medical Library Digital Collection, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Anna Jane Harrison". Online Resources / Chemistry in History / Chemical Education. Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- Long, Janice (17 August 1998). "Anna Harrison dies at age 85". Chemical & Engineering News 76 (33): 9. doi:10.1021/cen-v076n033.p009a.
- "ACS President: Anna Jane Harrison (1912-1998)". American Chemical Society > About Us > Governance. American Chemical Society. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- Rogers, Kara. "Anna Jane Harrison (American chemist and educator)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Harrison, Anna J., Papers 1854-1999" (44 boxes). Finding aid: Manuscript Collection: MS 0763. Mount Holyoke College, Archives and Special Collections. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Anna Jane Harrison". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
- "Anna Harrison fills ACS board vacancy". Chemical & Engineering News 54 (4): 6. 26 January 1976. doi:10.1021/cen-v054n004.p006a.
- "Chemistry : a search to understand". Worldcat entry. OCLC. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- Grolnic-McClurg, Sarah. "Anna Jane Harrison, Chemical Education Leader and First Woman President of the American Chemical Society, Dies at 85". News & Events. Mount Holyoke Office of Communications; News & Events. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- Walker, B.F. (1 May 1989). "Chemistry: A Search to Understand (Harrison, Anna J.; Weaver, Edwin S.)". Journal of Chemical Education 66 (5): A155. doi:10.1021/ed066pA155.