Benjamin Harris

[ Age 89 ] Retired chemical engineer was active in Boy Scouts for 75 years as an Eagle Scout and leader of four troops.

November 24, 2006|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,Sun Reporter

Dr. Benjamin L. "Doc" Harris, a former chemical engineer who retired as the director of research and development at Edgewood Arsenal, died Saturday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at the Glen Meadows retirement community in Glen Arm. He was 89 and a longtime resident of Glen Arm.

He was born in Savannah, Ga., and moved to the Baltimore area with his parents as a child.

He joined the Army as an officer in 1938, performing chemical research at Edgewood for five years during World War II. He was a reserve officer until 1977, when he retired as a colonel.

He spent most of his career in military research and development with the Army, publishing a number of classified reports and technical papers including ones on absorption of gases and liquids; kinetics; and colloidal chemistry.

He spent four years as deputy assistant director for chemical technology in the office of the secretary of defense. Dr. Harris returned to the Department of the Army in 1970 as technical director of Edgewood Arsenal and retired in 1981.

He received a bachelor's degree in gas engineering from the Johns Hopkins University in 1938 and earned his doctorate in chemical engineering there three years later. He was an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Hopkins early in his career.

While studying at Hopkins, he met Muriel Janet Diekmann, who also attended college in the area. They married in 1942. Mrs. Harris died in March.

For 50 years, the couple lived at Pondsprings, their 6-acre Glen Arm farm named after a small fishpond Dr. Harris had built on the land, said his son, Benjamin S. Harris II of Reisterstown.

The couple moved to the Glen Meadows retirement community in 2002.

Dr. Harris was active in Boy Scouting for 75 years. He was an Eagle Scout who was the leader of four troops and received several honorary awards for distinguished service.

Mr. Harris said his father developed a love for the outdoors as a child reading Tom Swift adventure stories. "He just naturally gravitated to the Boy Scouts," said Mr. Harris.

In retirement, Dr. Harris collected stamps and made jewelry out of semiprecious gemstones, his son said.

"He was real big on genealogy and did a lot of research into the Harris family background," said one of his daughters, Becky Gutin of Pikesville.

Services will be held at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at St. John's Lutheran Church, 3911 Sweet Air Road in Phoenix, where he was a longtime member.

In addition to his son and daughter, survivors include three other daughters, Stefanie Hunt of Parkville, Deborah Kommalan of Pasadena, and Penelope Clifton of Catonsville; two brothers, Paul R. Harris of Walnut Creek, Calif., and Raymond "Bill" Harris of New Freedom, Pa.; and 11 grandchildren.

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

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