John Hanna Brewer
Dr. John Hanna Brewer was
born in Gorman, Texas, on November 10, 1909. He moved to Abilene with his
parents in 1925 and entered Abilene High School as a sophomore. Following his
graduation in 1927, he enrolled in Hardin-Simmons University (then known as Simmons
University). He earned the Bachelor’s Degree in chemistry in 1930 and the
Master’s Degree in chemistry in 1932.
In 1932, he was hired by
the State Health Department in Austin as a lab dishwasher, soon advancing to
Water Analyst, where he became so fascinated with testing the bacterial count,
that he decided to study microbiology at the University of Texas and change his
After five years with the
State Health Department, Brewer was able to enroll at Johns Hopkins School of
Medicine under a grant from the American Medical Association to test sterility
of catgut sutures. To accept a position as microbiologist with a pharmaceutical
manufacturing firm in Baltimore, Dr. Brewer skipped his clinical year of
medical school and took his Ph.D. degree in 1938 at the Johns Hopkins School of
Hygiene and Public Health.
When he retired from the
firm, he had established an international reputation as a scientist,
particularly in quarantine and sterilization, and in 1969, joined the HSU
faculty, serving as professor of microbiology and director of the HSU Science
Dr. Brewer served as a
special consultant to NASA for 20 years as part of the Planetary Quarantine
Panel, which was responsible to ensure that American spacecrafts carried no contaminating
microorganisms to other planets and that no alien microbes were brought back to
earth. This led to NASA-funded research at HSU from 1972-1980, and to the
establishment in 1975 of the Fairleigh Dickinson Research Center, directed by
Dr. Brewer. In his role as NASA consultant, Dr. Brewer worked on the spacecraft
involved in the Viking Missions to Mars and also on various spacecraft that
went to the moon.
Upon retiring from HSU in 1984, Brewer moved with his wife
Evelyn to Gibson Island, Maryland, where he became the Vice Chairman and Chief
Scientist at Science Research Center, Inc.
During his career, Dr. Brewer wrote many professional
publications and held over 80 U.S. patents. He received an Honorary Doctor of
Science degree from HSU in 1969, was named Distinguished Alumnus in 1976, and
received the Keeter Alumni Service Award in 1985. He was also awarded an
Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from ACU in 1985. Dr. Brewer died April
10, 2002 at the age of 92.