HARRY G. HANSON, P.E.
Assistant Surgeon General
Rear Admiral, USPHS (ret.)
Harry Glenys Hanson was born on November 26, 1909, in Crookston, Minnesota. His professional life included service as a city engineer in Fargo, North Dakota; an Assistant Director and Director of the Division of Engineering of the North Dakota State Health Department; a distinguished decades-long career in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps; and a stint at the Pan American Health Organization. During his career with the PHS, Hanson contributed to major segments of the Service including the Centers for Disease Control from its beginnings as the Office of Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA), the Office of the Surgeon General, and several PHS organizational units containing the environmental health programs of the Service, including the Robert A. Taft Sanitary Engineering Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Hanson received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the North Dakota State College in Fargo in 1935 and a Master of Science Degree in Sanitary Engineering from Harvard University in 1940.
After graduation from undergraduate school, Hanson worked for over a year as an assistant engineer in Fargo, North Dakota, and as a County supervisor for a WPA project in that city. In 1936 he joined the North Dakota State Health Department where began his work in a PHS sponsored community sanitation program and progressed from assistant engineer to Assistant Director and then as Director of the Division of Engineering, a post commonly referred to as State Sanitary Engineer.
On July 1, 1939 Harry Hanson married Dorothy Greenland of Binford, North Dakota. They had three sons, Glenn , Karl, and John. Mrs. Hanson passed away on June 12, 1971.
In January of 1942, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War II, Hanson joined the Commissioned Corps of the PHS and was assigned to the MCWA, the predecessor organization of the Centers for Disease Control. The program was responsible for creating mosquito-free zones within a one-mile radius around each military and industrial establishment serving the war effort in fif¬teen southeastern states, as well as California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. occupied Caribbean areas. The program was later assigned responsibility for control of dengue, typhus, and other com¬municable diseases.
Hanson helped to establish the MCWA central office in Atlanta, including the initial staffing and logistics for field operations. In 1943 he became the executive officer for the Division of Operations and then executive officer for the entire MCWA. Following the end of the war, MCWA operations were re-directed from war-related efforts to more general com¬municable disease problems affecting the nation as a whole and MCWA became the Com¬municable Disease Center (CDC), with its headquarters remaining in Atlanta, Georgia.
Hanson then served as the Executive Officer for the new CDC until he transferred to Washington, D.C. in 1948 to serve as the Executive Officer for the Surgeon General, a post he was to hold for four years. In 1952 Hanson was appointed as the Assistant Chief Engineering Officer, (then called Assistant Chief Sanitary Engineering Officer).
In 1954, Hanson was given the job of helping to direct the expansion of both the program and the facilities of the Robert A. Taft Sanitary Engineering Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. His tenure there was during the period of that organizational unit’s greatest growth and movement into many new fields of experimentation and collaboration with other agencies.
On June 1, 1958 in recognition of his leadership responsibilities and professional competence, Harry G. Hanson was promoted to the position of Assistant Surgeon General with the equivalent rank of Rear Admiral (RADM, lower half) in the PHS Commissioned Corps.
In 1960, while still retaining the post of Director of the Sanitary Engineering Center, RADM Hanson was appointed Associate Chief of the Bureau of State Services for Environmental Health, a post he held until his retirement from the Commissioned Corps on July 1, 1966. He was promoted to RADM (upper half) on November 1, 1960.
In 1967, after his retirement from the Commissioned Corps, Hanson was appointed Chief of Engineering and Environmental Sciences for the World Health Organization’s Region of the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). He served in that post until 1973.
Hanson was a registered professional engineer in the State of North Dakota. He received the Public Health Service Meritorious Service Medal and a variety of other awards from professional public health and engineering societies. He was a lifelong member of the PHS Commissioned Officer Association and a variety of national engineering associations. During his service as a PHS officer, Hanson twice served as official advisor to the United States delegations to the meetings of the World Health Organization.
Hanson passed away on August 13, 1996. He is buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery. His second wife, the former Yolanda Gottesman Palmer, who he married in 1972, died in 1997 in Washington, D.C.