Ruth Charlotte Lawless was born on March 7, 1909, in Stanfordville, New York, and grew up in Washington, DC, graduating from Central High School in 1926. She received both her B.S. (1930) and M.S. (1931) degrees in chemistry from the University of Maryland. In 1931, she married Ridgaway J. Busbey (died 1941). Together they had two children, William Robert (1932-1972) and Emma B. Ditman (1933- ).
While completing her degrees, Ruth Busbey began working part time as a chemist with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Bureau of Entomology, which, in those years, maintained a laboratory on the University of Maryland's College Park campus. Her entire professional career was subsequently spent with the Bureau and its successor, the Entomology Research Division. In 1938 Ruth Busbey transferred to Whittier, California, where she worked on the application of cyanide to eradicate red scale, an insect that infests citrus trees. In 1943 Busbey returned to Maryland and continued work with the Bureau's Pesticide Chemicals Research Branch, now located at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Throughout the 1940s Ruth Busbey continued to research and publish while assuming increasing administrative responsibilities. She was eventually promoted to Assistant to the Branch Chief, a position she held until her retirement in 1970.
In order to read and translate articles on insecticide research published in Russian journals, Ruth Busbey began studying Russian at the USDA Graduate School during the 1950s. She eventually earned an M.S. in languages from Georgetown University in 1964. In 1966 she represented the Agricultural Research Service during a five-week information exchange tour of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). She visited many institutes engaged in pesticide research and established relationships with several researchers, keeping in contact with them after her return to the United States. In 1969 Ruth Busbey began translation of a major text, N. N. Melnikov's Chemistry of Pesticides; the translation was published in 1971.
After her retirement in 1970, Ruth Busbey volunteered her time to various organizations, including the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, Koininia Agapes, Inc., the Retired Chemists Group of the Chemical Society of Washington, and the Prince George's County Human Relations Committee. Ruth Busbey died March 27, 1990.