Dr. Brill was born in London, England in 1939 and moved to Newark, New Jersey in 1949. He was an undergraduate at Rutgers University and received his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. His postdoctoral work was with Boris Magasanik at MIT. He became Vilas Chair Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin. His lab identified the genes and worked out the basic biochemistry, including isolating the iron-molybdenum cofactor, of bacterial nitrogen fixation. Brill developed a model system to search for a nitrogen-fixing maize symbiosis. His lab developed mutants of Rhizobium that increased nitrogen fixation. Another project showed that termites have nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their intestine and it is these bacteria that allow termites to live without any dietary nitrogen. In 1980, he co-founded Agracetus, a plant biotechnology company, which was the first to genetically engineer cotton and soybean. Dr. Brill, in 1989, started Winston J. Brill & Associates, helping organizations improve creativity and innovation. He received the Eli Lilly Award and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Prize. In 2002, he retired and moved to the Pacific Northwest, where he, through the University of Washington, teaches short courses (GMO’s, evolution, food microbiology, etc.) for non-scientist retirees. Dr. Brill is an avid collector of art, crafts and antiquities.

Research Interests

I consult with organizations to stimulate creativity and productivity. I investigate client organizations/departments to identify practical opportunities that will increase their ability to innovate. I publish the monthly "Innovative Leader" (previously known as R&D Innovator). Researchers (including Academy members) have written articles on the human -- not technical - -side of the research process. This human side is an important part of science/technology advancement, but is rarely discussed in universities or in industry. I also give talks entitled, "Capture Creativity -- and Savor Success" or "Take the Mystery Out of Creativity -- and Stimulate Innovation." These talks, covering the arts, history and sciences, have received good responses from both the academic and industrial communities. Pasteur said, "Chance favors the prepared mind." I'm sure that Pasteur didn't mean that "preparing" is just gaining knowledge of one's field. It is this other part of preparing on which I currently focus.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 44: Microbial Biology