John T. Bruer, Ph.D., President Emeritus


In October 1986, John T. Bruer was appointed president of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, St. Louis, Missouri. The Foundation awards $18 Million annually in support of biomedical science, education, and international projects. Dr. Bruer is the first full-time professional to head the McDonnell Foundation and has developed and initiated major new programs for the Foundation. In collaboration with the Pew Charitable Trusts, he established the McDonnell-Pew Program in Cognitive Neuroscience, a new-mind brain science that links systems neuroscience and psychology in the study of human cognition. His program Cognitive Studies for Educational Practice supports applications of cognitive science to improve educational outcomes. The McDonnell Fellowships in Molecular Medicine have become one of the most prestigious young investigator awards in cancer biology. He has also involved the Foundation in international programs to control Hepatitis-B in developing countries and to alleviate effects of chronic disease and malnutrition on children's mental development.

John Bruer holds degrees in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin (B.A., 1971), University of Oxford (B. Phil., 1974), and the Rockefeller University (Ph. D., 1978, Thesis: Classical Mechanics as a Limiting Case of Quantum Theory). From 1978 through 1981, he was a visiting research fellow and associate director in the Health Science Division of the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1981, Dr. Bruer joined the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation and administered programs in the public understanding of science and medical education. While there, he initiated the first private Foundation program to support applications of cognitive science to the reform of medical education. (The early results of this effort are summarized in Cognitive Science in Medicine, D.A. Evans and V.L. Patel, eds., MIT Press, 1988). Additionally, he managed a three year seminar series on women's careers in science which resulted in The Inner Circle: Women in the Scientific Community. (H. Zuckerman, J.R. Cole, and J.T. Bruer, eds., Norton, 1991).

Subsequent work in applied cognitive science funded through the McDonnell Foundation resulted in the book, Schools for Thought: A Science of Learning in the Classroom (MIT Press, 1993). Schools for Thought explains in clear, straight-forward language why extending and applying the research base for education must be an integral component of any serious attempt at school reform. Schools for Thought was awarded the 1993 Quality in Educational Standards Award by the American Federation of Teachers and the 1994 Charles S. Grawemeyer Award in Education by the University of Louisville. This work is the basis for a collaboration, including educators and researchers in six North American cities, to develop a research-based middle school curriculum.

John's latest book The Myth of the First Three Years: A New Understanding of Early Brain Development and Lifelong Learning debunks many popular beliefs about the all-or-nothing effects of early experience on a child's brain and development urging parents and decision-makers to consider for themselves the evidence for lifelong learning opportunities.

Nationally, Dr. Bruer serves on advisory boards at Carnegie-Mellon University (Philosophy Department), Stanford University (Center for the Study of Language and Information), and Washington University (Program in Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Psychology). He is a director of the St. Louis University Club Fund for Education and works actively to facilitate collaboration between the national educational research community and local educators who desire to apply cognitive research in their classrooms. Dr. Bruer is an adjunct professor of philosophy at Washington University, teaching occasional courses in philosophy of science. In 1995 Dr. Bruer was appointed to the newly formed National Educational Research Policy and Priorities Board established by Congress.

Dr. John T. Bruer announced his plans to retire in 2014. Susan M. Fitzpatrick was appointed as Bruer's successor at the James S. McDonnell Foundation in January 2015.


Information Publication
Can we talk? How the cognitive neuroscience of attention emerged from neurobiology and psychology
Bruer, J.T. (2010)
Scientometrics. N83(3), 751-764.
Mapping Cognitive Neuroscience: Two-Dimensional Perspectives on Twenty Years of Cognitive Neuroscience Research
Bruer J.T. (2009)
The Cognitive Neurosciences (4th Ed) , (pp 1221-1234). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
The brain/education barrier [Editorial].
Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Bruer, J.T. (2007)
Science, 317(5843), 1293.
Avoiding the pediatrician's error: how neuroscientists can help educators (and themselves).
Bruer, J.T. (2002)
Nature Neuroscience, 5, 1031-1033.
A path not taken [Review of the book Early experience and the life path, by A.M. Clarke, & A.D.B. Clarke].
Bruer, J.T. (2002)
Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 47(3), 268-270.
Neural connections: Some you use, some you lose.
Bruer, J.T. (1999)
Phi Delta Kappan, 81(4), 264-277.
The myth of the first three years: A new understanding of early brain development and lifelong learning.
Bruer, J.T. (1999)
New York, NY: The Free Press.
In search of…brain-based education.
Bruer, J.T. (1999)
Phi Delta Kappan, 80(9), 648-654.
Brain science, brain fiction.
Bruer, J.T. (1998)
Educational Leadership, 56(3), 14-18.
The brain and child development: time for some critical thinking.
Bruer, J.T. (1998)
Public Health Reports, 113(5), 388-397.
Let’s put brain science on the back burner.
Bruer, J.T. (1998)
NASSP Bulletin, 82(598), 9-19.
Education and the brain: A bridge too far.
Bruer, J.T. (1998)
Educational Researcher, 26(8), 4-16.
The mind’s journey from novice to expert: If we know the route, we can help students negotiate their way.
Bruer, J.T. (1993)
American Educator, 17(2), 38-46.
Information Publication
The brain and early childhood: Three waves
Bruer, J.T. (2012).
PDF | Powerpoint
Presented at (New York Academy of Medicine event).
CiteSpace maps of all attention authors: 1985 and 1990
Bruer, J.T. (2009)
PDF | Powerpoint
Presented at (event).
Vatican Talk [PowerPoint Slides].
Bruer, J.T. (2003).
PDF | Powerpoint
Presented at (event), Vatican City, The Vatican.
Herbert Spencer Lecture: A rational approach to education: integrating behavioral, cognitive, and brain science [PowerPoint Slides].
Bruer, J.T. (2002).
PDF | Powerpoint
Presented at Oxford University (event), Oxford, United Kingdom.
Where are the bridges between cognitive neuroscience and education? Which "bridges" may not yet be possible? [PowerPoint Slides].
Bruer, J.T. (2002)
PDF | Powerpoint
Presented at Harvard University (event), Cambridge, MA.
“Bridge too far” – brain & education – need for cognition [PowerPoint Slides].
Bruer, J.T. (1999).
PDF | Powerpoint
Presented at the Academy of Arts and Sciences (event).
Bridging brain, mind and behavior: The fundamental role of behavioral science in understanding the mind-brain [PowerPoint Slides].
Bruer, J.T. (1999).
PDF | Powerpoint
Presented at the Vassar Talk Seminar (event), Poughkeepsie, NY.
Brain science & education: Current misconceptions, future challenges and opportunities [PowerPoint Slides].
Bruer, J.T. , Levitt, P., McCandliss, B. (1999)
Presented at the AERA talk (event).
Critical & sensitive periods: Concept, history, methods [PowerPoint Slides].
Bruer, J.T. (1999).
PDF | Powerpoint
Presented at the Critical Thinking About Critical Periods Conference (event).
Education and the brain [PowerPoint Slides].
Bruer, J.T. (1998)
PDF | Powerpoint
Presented at the Education Writers Association (event).