Betty Harris (scientist)

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Dr. Betty W Harris
Born(1940-07-29)29 July 1940
NationalityUnited States
Alma materSouthern University
Atlanta University
University of New Mexico
Known forchemistry of explosives
Scientific career
InstitutionsLos Alamos National Laboratory

Dr. Betty Wright Harris is an American chemist. She is known for her work on the chemistry of explosives completed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She patented a spot test for detecting 1,3,5-triamino-2,4,6-trinitrobenzene (TATB) in the field.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Dr. Harris was born on 29 July 1940[2] in Ouachita Parish, Monroe, Louisiana. She and her 11 siblings were raised on a farm by Henry Hudson "Jake" and Legertha Evelyn Thompson Wright.[3] She attended Union Central High School, enrolling at Southern University at the age of 16. She received her B.S. in science at the age of 19 and subsequently attended Atlanta University, receiving her M.S. degree.[4] She taught as an assistant professor of chemistry and mathematics[5] at Mississippi Valley State University, Southern University and Colorado College.[1]

Harris was awarded a PhD in Chemistry from the University of New Mexico in 1975, with a dissertation titled "Reactions of 2-aminopyridine with picryl halides".[6]


After gaining her PhD, Harris moved to do research at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she worked in the areas of hazardous waste treatment and environmental remediation as well as explosives chemistry. Areas of focus included explosives detection, safing liquids, synthesis and characterization of insensitive high explosives and sensitivity of weathered high explosives.[7] In addition to her research, she has worked in outreach to young people, including working with the Girl Scouts in developing a badge based on chemistry.

During a leave of absence from LANL, Dr. Harris was the chief of chemical technology for Solar Turbine Inc., where she managed the technical laboratories and investigated cold-end corrosion of super alloys, which was caused by sulfuric acid and soot in gas turbine engines. For the last eleven years of Dr. Harris's career, she worked at the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Classification as a certified document reviewer.[3]

She has received the New Mexico Governor's Trailblazer Award.[8] She is recognized as a distinguished African American Scientist by the National Academy of Sciences.[3] She is a 50-year member of the American Chemical Society. Dr. Harris currently lives in Maryland and has three children: Selita Harris Lucas, Jeffrey Harris and Alloyd A. Harris, II.[1]


  • Harris, U.S. Patent 4,618,452, "Spot test for 1,3,5-triamino-2,4,6-trinitrobenzene, TATB" US patent 4618452, Dr. Betty Harris, "Spot test for 1,3,5-triamino-2,4,6-trinitrobenzene, TATB", published November 29, 1984 


  1. ^ a b c The HistoryMakers ScienceMaker Toolkit (PDF). Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  2. ^ "Betty Harris". Introductions Necessary. Nine Hour Films. 29 July 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "Betty W. Harris". National Academies of Science. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  4. ^ Osborne, Hannah. "Black History Month 2014 Five Black Chemists who Changed the World Honoured". International Business Times. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  5. ^ Woodlief, Mayona (2013-04-29). "Biography of Dr. Betty Harris". Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  6. ^ Harris, Betsy Wright (1975). Reactions of 2-aminopyridine with picryl halides. University of New Mexico. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Featured Inventors: Dr. Betty Harris". International Black Inventions Museum. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  8. ^ "Dr. Betty Harris". Famous Black Inventions. Retrieved 2014-07-12.

External links[edit]

  • [1] ACS and NOBCChE video of "Five black chemists who changed the world"