Owen Hannaway, 66, Hopkins professor of science history


Owen Hannaway, a Johns Hopkins University historian who focused on science in early modern Europe, died of complications from a stroke Jan. 21 at Keswick Multi-Care Center, where he had lived for three years. He had lived earlier in Guilford.

He was 66.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he was educated at St. Aloysius College, a Roman Catholic high school.

He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry at the University of Glasgow in 1957 and his doctorate there eight years later. Concerned about the perils of handling explosive compounds that would be a part of working as a chemist, he decided to focus on the history of chemistry, family members said.

"He was a historian through and through," said his wife of 37 years, the former Caroline Moorhouse, a historian of medicine and past editor of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine. "That's what he was meant to be. He had a strong visual sense and could look at an old woodcut, think about it and say, `What's going on here?' He was very curious."

He moved to the U.S. in 1966 and after a year at the University of Wisconsin joined the Hopkins faculty as assistant professor in the history of science department. He was named a professor in 1977 and remained at the Homewood campus for the rest of his career.

"He had a beautiful Scottish accent. He was a brilliant lecturer and a riveting performer," said Dr. Sharon Kingsland, chairwoman of the department of history of science and technology.

He was the author of The Chemists and the Word: The Didactic Origins of Chemistry, a 1975 work that discusses chemistry's progress in Europe from the 16th century.

He also edited Observation, Experiment, and Hypothesis in Modern Physical Science, a 1985 volume of essays. He also wrote journal articles, book reviews, essay reviews, and dictionary articles.

Dr. Hannaway had a number of interests. He sang and played the piano as a young man. He collected Oriental rugs. He also traveled widely and enjoyed food and wine. He also pursued an interest in ornithology.

"Owen had a brilliance that is hard to describe. It shone through in the particular gleam of his eye when making a point. It was ... [an] ability to penetrate to a fascinating core of a problem," said Pamela Smith, one of his former students, who is now a Columbia University professor.

In a 1999 talk, Dr. Hannaway credited the Jesuit fathers at St. Aloysius "who taught the classics [and] had all gone to Oxford ... [and] the fierce intellectual competitiveness amongst the boys," as well as the school's "emphasis on rhetoric and public speaking."

Dr. Hannaway had been co-director of the Center for the History and Philosophy of Science at Hopkins. He was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives for the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

The Chemical Heritage Foundation organized a 1999 symposium in his name. He also was awarded prizes by the History of Science Society and the American Chemical Society.

He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1993 and after his recovery, he returned to teaching part time. He retired in 1999.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. today at the Evergreen House Theater, 4545 N. Charles Street.

In addition to his wife, survivors include two sisters, Christine Brown of Cockermouth, England, and Mary Gardner of Burlington, Canada, a Toronto suburb.


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