Harold James Readwas born in Dubuque, Iowa on February 14, 1911. He grew up and received most of his education in Illinois. He major in chemistry at the University of Illinois and received a B.S. degree in 1934 and an M.S. in 1935. He transferred to the University of Pennsylvania and served as an assistant instructor while pursuing graduate work until 1937 when he was appointed a Dupont Fellow. He received his Ph.D. degree in physical Chemistry under Martin Kilpatrick in February 1939. He interrupted his student, 1933-34, to work as a reporter and later editor with Commerce Clearing House in Chicago. From 1934 to 1935, he was a part-time chemist with the Engineering Experimental station at the University of Illinois. In 1937, he began a part-time association with A. K. Graham that continued for many years and contributed much to his interest in electrochemistry and metal finishing.
After receiving his doctorate, he continued at Penn as an instructor in electrochemistry and quantitative analysis until 1940 when he joined the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh. His work there turned more and more toward Metallurgy.
During World War II, on evenings and weekends, Dr. Read assisted by his wife, Catherine, converted his private metal working shop to military work. This culminated in a part-time participation in the Manhattan Project with D. Maxwell Gensamer. When in 1945, Dr. Gensamer became head of the Mineral Technology section of the College of Mineral Industries of Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Read accompany him as Associate Professor of Metallurgy. He undertook the teaching of nonferrous metallography, the extraction metallurgy of the more unusual elements (as well as those recovered by electrolytic means), corrosion, and metal finishing. Dr. Read was promoted to Professor of Physical Metallurgy in 1951.
Dr. Read joined The Electrochemical Society in 1934. He took part in Local Section activities while living in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and filled Section offices in both cities. He was General Chairman of the Society Meeting in Pittsburgh in 1934. He served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Electrodeposition Division, 1940-41, and Chairman in 1942. He was active in the publication work of the Society serving on the Publication Committee from 1945 to 1950, Chairman 1948-50, and was the first Technical Editor of the Journal. He served on many other Society committees. He contributed to all editions of "Modern Electroplating" and served on the editorial board of the first versions of the book. Dr. Read was active in other societies involving electroplating. In 1961, he received the Proctor Memorial Leadership Award of the American Electroplaters' Society, and in 1966 the Scientific Achievement Award.
Dr. Read was elected Society Vice-President for the term 1963-1966 and President 1966-1967. He was made an Honorary Member of The Electrochemical Society in 1986.