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.