Harold Williams Borns, Jr. was born on November 28, 1927, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His mother was Blanche Borns and his father was Harold William Borns, Sr., who worked in the potato chip industry and was very successful. Harold Borns, Jr. entered the military and served during World War II. After the war, he attended Tufts University where he developed an interest in Geology. He received his Ph.D. from Boston University and did post-graduate work at Yale where he changed his field to glacial geology. He has taught at the University of Maine at Orono since 1956, the longest of any current professor. He established a quaternary Ice Age interdisciplinary group at the university. He credits Edmund Muskie with influencing the acceptance of interdisciplinary studies.
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L'Hommedieu, Andrea, "Borns, Harold oral history interview" (2003). Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection. 43.