Betty Haines obituary

1 February 2004

Betty M Haines, MBE, BSc, FRMS, FSLTC, who died on November 24, 2003, at the age of 78, had a long and distinguished career in the leather industry. Betty was one of a line of eminent lady scientists employed by the British Leather Manufacturers' Research Association since its inception in 1920. She graduated from the University of London in 1945 with a BSc in Botany, Chemistry and Zoology and spent a short time undertaking teaching and technical work at Chelsea Polytechnic before joining the BLMRA in August 1946. Appointed by Dr Dorothy Jordan Lloyd and commencing as a research assistant in the biology department, Betty became head of the biology department in 1969 and, in 1971, assumed the responsibility for biology and protein sciences. In 1983, Betty received an MBE for service to the leather industry. Officially, Betty retired in February 1985 but was invited to continue as a consultant until 1988. Betty's range of expertise was quite outstanding; her published work spanning some 50 years covers aspects ranging from the effects of farming practice on hide and skin quality through to the influence of shoe and garment construction on leather performance. She understood the importance of supply chain communication and brought the meat trade, hide markets, fellmongers and tanners together to exchange information and ideas. During the 1970s, Betty managed a major research project in conjunction with the UK Meat and Livestock Commission to establish a database for the characterisation of UK cattle hides and sheepskins. This work led to new concepts which could be used for commercially assessing the yield of leather and for hide trading. She undertook major studies on the effect of breed, age and feeding regime on hide quality and also did fundamental research on protein science, in particular the ageing of collagen and proteoglycans. Despite her involvement with such innovative research, she recognised the need for work that was of direct practical use to the tanner, eg area yield studies and the development of training courses for fellmongers. She was also widely known and appreciated within the tanning industry as somebody who was more than willing to don wellington boots and work in the wet, cold, dirty conditions of hide stores and limeyards. Microscopes, both light and electron, were key tools in all aspects of her work and she made a significant contribution to the understanding of leather structure and its relationship with leather performance. Betty had a particular interest in the conservation of leather, especially bookbinding leather. A fruitful collaboration with Dr Baines Cope of the British Library culminated in a report, The Conservation of Bookbinding Leather, published by the British Library in 1984 and the British Standard BS7451:1991 for Archival Bookbinding Leather. Other areas included investigations of archaeological artefacts and collaborations with forensic laboratories. Following her retirement in February 1985, in addition to her consulting activities at BLC, Betty continued to play a significant role in the development of the Leather Conservation Centre. She was a guiding influence at the centre from its beginnings in a small room at the BLMRA to its present location in a spacious, purpose-designed building on the University College campus in Northampton. Betty was an active member of professional associations: a Fellow and council member of the Royal Microscopical Society; a Fellow, member of council and president (1986 to 1988) of the Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists (SLTC). For many years she was a delegate at meetings of the International Hide and Allied Trades Improvement Society. At the Leather Conservation Centre, she joined the council of trustees in 1978, became chairman of the technical advisory panel in 1984, chairman of trustees in 1987 and president from 1999 and was consultant to the London Museum. Betty lectured on microscopy and fibre structure of leather at industry meetings in the UK, Europe, USA, New Zealand and South Africa. She was invited by the SLTC to give the Proctor Memorial Lecture in 1983 and by the American Leather Chemists Association to give the J Arthur Wilson Memorial Lecture in 1984. Betty's time at the BLMRA spanned a number of significant changes for the organisation, including the move from London to Egham and subsequently to Northampton in 1978, as well as the merger of the research and commercial associations to form the British Leather Confederation in 1984. Betty's drive and energy were not limited to her professional life. Gregarious by nature, Betty was renowned for her hospitality and her home was a focal point for family, friends and business colleagues throughout her life. Betty will be sorely missed for her drive, her professionalism and her sense of fun.

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