Betty Wright Harris’s explosive career

Betty Harris

Source: Photograph courtesy of Los Alamos National Laboratory; Frame © Swindler & Swindler @ Folio Art

Hayley Bennett tells the story of a Black chemist who studied energetic materials – and ways to detect them

Growing up in the US state of Louisiana, Betty Wright missed many days at school to help with planting, harvesting and other jobs on the family farm. She clearly learned to work hard and had talent and ambition, as she didn’t let the family business prevent her from getting a good education and following the advice of teachers who encouraged her into science. She would eventually become an explosives researcher working on secret chemistry projects at the US government’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), one of the only Black female scientists in the lab at that time.