Lives of the fellows

Felix Warden Brown

b.10 April 1908 d.10 June 1972
BA Oxon(1929) BM BCh(1932) MRCP(1934) DM(1936) MA(1963) FRCP(1968) FRCPsych(1971)

Felix Warden Brown was born at Heaton Chapel, Lancashire, the son of Charles Andrew Brown, a commercial traveller, and his wife Jessie Warden. He was educated at Bedford School and Keble College, Oxford, at both of which he won literary as opposed to scientific prizes. He then went to the London Hospital where he qualified in medicine in 1932, gaining his membership of the College in 1934. He was elected a Fellow in 1968. It was in 1934 that he married the actress Eileen Way and, with a Radcliffe Travelling Fellowship, they set out together for the Phipps Clinic, the psychiatric centre of Johns Hopkins Hospital, then flourishing under the immense prestige of Adolf Meyer. The training he received there as a young psychiatrist coloured his whole future approach and in his life and work he reflected the humanity, integrity, diligence, and some of the obscurities of his famous mentor.

He returned to England and proceeded DM in 1936, working at Guy’s Hospital where he was closely associated with the York Clinic. Later he worked in association with the Charing Cross Hospital, in charge of the Earls Court Child Guidance Clinic where his views and instruction were many years in advance of his time. His work in child, family and adolescent psychiatry was his major contribution for which he is best known, and which perhaps lay nearest to his heart. He was on the staff of the West London Hospital before taking over the Marlborough Day Hospital. Later he became consultant psychiatrist to the Royal Free Hospital where his powers gained further momentum, finally concentrating his energies on the children’s department. A steady stream of papers reflected his wide experience, judgement and humanity. Latterly, his views on childhood bereavement in determining depression in adult life stirred sympathetic interest.

Brown knew what he wanted when others might still have been doubtful. When confronted with an utterly disastrous situation he had the singular talent of being able to rethink it and present his thoughts to the patient in such a way that somehow everything seemed to have happened for the best. He recognized instantly his patients’ dilemmas and acted tirelessly for their benefit.

Felix Brown was a man to remember with gratitude and affection for he was a truly good man. He had the awareness of an artist, at times of a poet, allied to the objectivity of the scientist. A colleague pays tribute to him in the following anecdote: ‘Felix Brown phoned to say ‘I am on my death bed. Well, not actually on it. On and off it. I would be pleased to see you’. And he was much more concerned with the future of his family than with his own fate. It was a privilege to see a friend passing out of life so gracefully.’

He and his wife, Eileen, had three children; two daughters and a son.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[, 1972, 3, 55; Lancet, 1972, 1, 1403; Times, 17 June 1971]

(Volume VI, page 71)

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