Hanna, William Fielding

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Hanna, William Fielding

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William Fielding Hanna was an outstanding Canadian scientist who contributed to the advancement of cereal crop production in western Canada and in Njoro region (Kenya), Africa. He was born on November 12, 1892 in Middle Musquodoboit, Nova Scotia and graduated from Dalhousie University (Arts, Law) in 1914. During the First World War, William Hanna served with the Canadian Corps Cyclists, Cameron Highlanders, Royal Flying Corps, and Royal Air Force (1914-1918). After the war, he began farming in Alberta and became interested in potential research in botany, plant pathology, soil, and climate sciences to improve agricultural production in the prairie's provinces. His interests led him to begin his study at the University of Alberta. He graduated with B.Sc. (1922) and M. Sc. Honours (1923) degrees, winning the Governor General's gold medal. Being awarded the first scholarship by the Canadian Society of Technical Agriculturists, he moved to Winnipeg (1923) and worked on his doctoral and post-doctoral degrees to do special mycological research in Professor Reginald Buller's laboratory at the University of Manitoba (1923-1924). In the 1930's, William Hanna also studied at the Imperial College of Science (London, U.K), the University of Minnesota, and the Heidelberg University.

During the Second World War, he was a reserve pilot and a Group Captain and Director of Plans for the Royal Canadian Air Force. (1939-45). He was instrumental in organizing flight training and planning strategic multilateral air defense and was a commander of the 112th Squadron R.C.A.F. William Hanna received international recognition as a decorated Officer of the United States Legion of Merit. Following the Second World War, he returned to Winnipeg and became an Officer-in Charge of the Dominion Laboratory of Plant Pathology, Science Service, Canada Department of Agriculture. His appointment as Chief of the Botany and Plant Pathology Division (1952-1958) prompted him to move to Ottawa. After his retirement, he relocated to a farm near Bridgetown, Nova Scotia while still conducting the research project for Agriculture Canada. Between 1966 and 1968, he headed the Canada External Aid, Rockefeller Foundation at the University of Manitoba. His team was responsible for wheat breeding projects including training. William Hanna became an advisor to Kenya's Minister of Agriculture. The program produced rust-resistant varieties of wheat suited specifically to East Africa's (Njoro region) climate conditions. Dr. William Hanna's scientific work was widely recognized. He received the Order of Canada (1969). He published more than fifty scientific papers and was a popular speaker. As a speaker, he was invited to attend the U.S.S.R. Science Congress in Moscow (1954). His perspective on the humanitarian potentials of science enabled him to form many cooperative bonds between international research groups. The University of Manitoba established the Dr. W.F. Hanna Memorial Lectures to recognize his contributions to the University of Manitoba following his death in 1972. (For a more indepth look at Dr. Hanna's life consult Thorvaldur Johnson's article in the proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada, Series IV/ Volume XI 1973 found in Box 1 Fd. 1 of the fonds)


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Buller, A.H. Reginald (1874-1944)

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Buller, A.H. Reginald

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Hanna, William Fielding

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William Fielding Hanna was a student of Buller's 1923-1924, earning the first PhD in western Canada. Later, the two worked closely together while Hanna was employed at the Dominion Rust Research Laboratory. They also maintained a lifelong friendship.

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