Owen Hannaway, an expert in the history of science in
early modern Europe who was known for his love of history
and brilliant classroom oratorical style, died Jan. 21 at
the age of 66 at Keswick Multi-Care Center in Roland Park.
He was a resident of Guilford.
A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Hannaway came to the
Krieger School as an assistant professor in the
of the History of Science in 1967. He later served
— twice — as department chair before being
designated as professor emeritus in 2000.
In a memorial service held Jan. 28 at Evergreen House,
colleagues, former students and friends remembered Hannaway
as a scholar, teacher and mentor whose penetrating mind and
razor-sharp intellect were belied by a gentle manner, an
excellent sense of humor and a distinct talent —
cultivated at the Jesuit boys' school he attended during
his early years — for public speaking.
"Owen would talk for two hours straight and was a
riveting performer in the classroom," recalls Sharon
Kingsland, chair of the Department of the History of
Science and Technology. "The students were enraptured and
inspired. His penetrating observations helped us understand
what real scholarship was about."
Hannaway was born in Glasgow in 1939 and in 1957
entered Glasgow University, famous for being home to
19th-century physicist William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin),
as well as to a series of eminent chemical historians
dating back to the 18th century. Hannaway received his
bachelor of science with honors in chemistry in 1961 and
his doctorate in chemistry from the same institution in
1965. A year later, he moved to the United States and took
a position as postdoctoral fellow in the History of Science
Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
In 1967, he came to Johns Hopkins and began what would
prove to be a noteworthy and productive career. He became a
full professor in 1977 and served as chair of the
Department of the History of Science and Technology from
1978 to 1982 and from 1986 to 1989.
"Owen was spellbound by history and the power of
ideas," remembers Pamela Smith, Hannaway's former Ph.D.
student and now a professor of history at Columbia
University. "His enthusiasm on reading a new interesting
historical work and his intellectual curiosity were
Hannaway's scholarly interests included the history of
chemistry from the Renaissance to today, as well as the
history of science more generally and the history of
exploration and American ornithology. His book The Chemists
and the Word: The Didactic Origins of Chemistry (1975) is
now regarded as a classic and is credited with stimulating
historical interest in the relationship between pedagogy
and the discipline of chemistry. In 1985, he co-edited
Observation, Experiment and Hypothesis in Modern Physical
Science (Studies from the Johns Hopkins Center for the
History & Philosophy of Science) with Peter Achinstein.
Colleagues also report that Hannaway was particularly adept
at interpreting the visual materials that earlier
scientists used to illustrate their ideas, and that he
encouraged his students to take a more analytical approach
to these images.
In 1999, the Chemical Heritage Foundation recognized
and honored Hannaway with a symposium called "Chemists and
Texts: A Symposium on the History of Chemistry in Honor of
Dr. Owen Hannaway." He was the 1991 recipient of the
American Chemical Society's Division of the History of
Chemistry's Dexter Award for Outstanding Achievement in the
History of Chemistry, and was awarded the Derek Price/Rod
Webster Prize by the History of Science Society in 1988.
"Owen was the kind of scholar I admired immensely,
combining immense erudition with interpretative reach and
boldness," says Steven Shapin, the Franklin L. Ford
Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University
and a colleague of Hannaway's. "I had the very highest
admiration for his work ... and for his delightful
Hannaway is survived by his wife of 37 years,
Caroline, a historian of medicine.