Lives of the fellows

Alexander Brown

b.9 August 1910 d.22 February 1969
CBE(1958) MB BCh Edin(1933) MRCPE(1937) FRCPE(1943) MRCP(1963) FRCP(1968)

Alexander Brown was born at Falkirk, Scotland, the son of William Brown, a clockmaker, and his wife Jessie Jane Lewars. He was educated at Falkirk High School and Edinburgh University, where he was awarded the Eccles Scholarship, graduating MB BCh in 1933. After holding house appointments at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, and the Glasgow Royal Maternity and Women’s Hospital, he became a lecturer in physiology at Edinburgh University. In 1937 he was admitted MRCPE and became clinical tutor and later associate physician in the wards of Professor Derrick Dunlop in the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh. He was elected FRCPE in 1943. He took his MRCP in 1963 and was elected a Fellow of the College in 1968.

In 1946 he joined the RAMC as a specialist physician and during his service in Sierra Leone he became acquainted with West Africa. His return to civilian life coincided with the Colonial Secretary’s recommendation that a University College for Nigeria should be established at Ibadan and he was appointed to the foundation chair of Medicine. Under conditions of some difficulty, and at the far end of long and often uncertain supply lines, standards acceptable to London University had to be maintained. Sufficient staff were assembled to allow an initial intake of 104 students and it says much for the pioneers who headed the Faculties of Arts, Science and Medicine under the directorship of Dr Kenneth Mellanby, the first Principal, that they committed themselves and their reputations to this heroic task. Today it is a university of internationally accepted standards, of over 2700 students and more than 500 senior staff. Sandy Brown was one of the few original pioneers who stayed to see the first-class school and hospital which now exist.

In parallel with the development of the university was the almost equivalent project of creating the medical school and teaching hospital. At first the medical school could only undertake pre-clinical teaching, and the students were admitted for their clinical years to medical schools in London. Meanwhile, the Government Hospital at Ibadan was made available for use as a temporary University College Hospital, which allowed clinical departments to build up staff and experience. A completely new teaching hospital was officially opened in 1957, a ceremony which was performed by the Princess Royal. Once the new hospital was opened and clinical teaching began, Sandy Brown turned his attention to the wider aspects of medical education in Nigeria. From 1963 much of his energy was directed towards the establishment of the Ibarapa Community Health Project where, at Igbo-Ora, some 60 miles from Ibadan, facilities for research and the teaching of undergraduates were built up around a rural health centre. After years of hard work and delicate diplomacy, involving the university, the Western Nigerian Government, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the London and Liverpool Schools of Tropical Medicine, the Ibarapa project became a reality and training in community health has been part of the student’s curriculum since 1964.

Sandy Brown enlivened any company with his gaiety, wit, endless fund of stories, and odd pieces of information on a wide variety of topics. He was a keen and skilled photographer and had a large collection of photographs of all aspects of Nigerian life. He was never boring, self-opinionated or pompous. He was shy and retiring and few were privileged to know him intimately, but he had many Nigerian friends, and his knowledge of the country, its people, and customs, was witness to his great affection for it. He earned both the respect and deep affection of Nigerians of all classes, tribes and opinions.

He married Helga Marie Elizabeth, daughter of Eimund Berg, a schoolmaster, and they had two children, a son and a daughter. The son followed his father into the medical profession.

After his death, his Nigerian colleagues paid him the tribute of asking that he should be buried in the cemetery within the University campus, so that in years to come staff and students might learn something of their foundation by noting from his gravestone that their first Professor of Medicine occupied the Chair for 21 historic years, thus establishing an academic record of which any University would be proud.

MDW Lowe
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme

[Brit.med.J., 1969, 1, 647, 722; Lancet, 1969, 1, 535, 631; Scotsman, 1 Mar 1969]

(Volume VI, page 69)

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