James Harris



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James Harris


Nuclear Chemist

Nuclear chemist James Harris was a member of the scientific team at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory that discovered two new elements just a few years ago.  Harris joined the laboratory, which is operated for the Department of Energy by the University of California, in 1960, after years of research at Tracerlab, Inc.  At Berkeley he sought to complete the periodic table of chemical elements.

In the course of several years the laboratory produced a number of new elements by bombarding special targets in an accelerator.  The research team purified and prepared the target material and, after hundreds of hours of bombarding the target with carbon, detected element 104 for a few seconds in 1969.  Element 105 was produced in 1970 when the same target was bombarded with nitrogen.  Element 104 was named Rutherfordium, and 105, Hahnium, in honor of two atomic pioneers.

Unlike most of his colleagues, Harris did not have a Ph.D. degree.  The Texas native had a B.S. from Houston-Tillotson College in Austin and had taken graduate courses in chemistry and physics.  However, his alma mater conferred an honorary doctorate upon him in 1973, largely because of his work as codiscoverer of elements 104 and 105.


E-mail: ehaynie@swbell.net