John Hanna Brewer

Microbiologist, 1930/1932

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 career plans.

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 Research Center.

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.