Lives of the fellows

Stanley George Browne

b.8 December 1907 d.20 January 1986
CMG(1976) OBE(1965) MB BS Lond(1933) MRCP(1934) FRCS(1935) DTM(1936) MD(1954) FRCP(1961) FKC(1976) KLJ(1984)

Stanley Browne, a world authority on leprosy and a lifelong medical missionary, was born in New Cross, London, the second son of Arthur Browne, a Post Office clerk who was also secretary to the local Baptist church. Stanley’s early education was outstanding, at Brockley Central School he obtained many of the school prizes. He left school at the age of 15 and obtained the post of junior clerk in the Town Clerk’s department at Deptford Town Hall. His desire, however, was to become a medical missionary and go to university. He matriculated at 18 having gained the first non-vocational scholarship of the London County Council for two years at King’s College. He succeeded in intermediate BSc and second MB, and gained a three-year scholarship at King’s College Hospital, qualifying in 1933. In his student days at King’s he was awarded the Barry, Leathes and Warneford prizes and the Warneford gold medal, and at King’s medical school he was awarded the Jeff medal, and prizes in obstetrics, urology, orthopaedic surgery, surgical pathology and hygiene. He obtained distinctions in surgery, forensic medicine and hygiene in the graduation examinations. He combined house appointments at King’s with postgraduate study; obtaining his MRCP in 1934 and his FRCS in 1935, and the Murchison scholarship of the college as the outstanding medical graduate. After being accepted by the Baptist Missionary Society for work in the Belgian Congo, he went to Antwerp to study French and tropical medicine, obtaining the DTM diploma in 1936. His MD thesis was on onchocerciasis.

In April 1936 he arrived in Yakusu, on the upper reaches of the River Congo, and threw himself into the work of a medical missionary. This involved playing an active part in the control of trypanosomiasis and onchocerciasis over a wide area. His rural surveys showed a high incidence of leprosy, particularly in the Kombe district, and he endeavoured to find the cause and cure for this disease and built a leprosarium across the River Congo at Yalisombo. On his first furlough he met Marion (Mali), eldest daughter of the Rev Dr H R Williamson, who had been a missionary in China. They became engaged prior to Browne’s return to Yakusu in April 1940 and, six months later, Mali joined him and they were married in Yakusu on 15 November. They had three sons: Derek, Alastair and Christopher, all born in Yakusu. Two of them became doctors.

By this time the Yalisombo leprosarium had been established and Browne’s interest in leprosy was increasing. He was one of the first to use Dapsone in the treatment of leprosy and continued his research in the use of Chaulmoorgra oil and Dapsone from 1947-58. Other interests while he was in Yakusu was the filming of the leprosy scene of the Nun's Story with Audrey Hepburn, Dame Edith Evans and Peter Finch, and discovering the breeding place of the larvae of the fly Simulium Damsonum as the host for onchocerciasis. As principal of the School for Medical Auxiliaries at Yakusu he helped develop a rural health service which later become a model. Whilst on leave in England in 1958 he resigned from the Baptist Missionary Society. He had no clear idea of what his next step would be. The deciding factor was an invitation from the government of the Eastern Region of Nigeria to succeed Frank Davey as senior leprologist at Uzuakoli, and one month later he arrived in Nigeria. He was to make a contribution second to none in his fight against leprosy, and was known in West Africa as ‘Mr Leprosy’, and sometimes as ‘Bonganga’.

From this time onwards he devoted all his energies to combating leprosy. At Uzuakoli, he pioneered the use of a new anti-leprosy drug B663 now known as clofazamine, and used in multidose treatment of leprosy. He published numerous research papers on leprosy, and continued his interest in rural health work and the use of rural dispensaries for field surveys.

Stanley Browne returned to England at the end of 1965 to assume the directorship of the Leprosy Study Centre in London where he succeeded Robert Cochrane (q.v.). From his base in London he was able to advise many governments on their leprosy control programmes. He was invited by Sir George Godber to succeed Robert Cochrane as consultant adviser to the Department of Health and Social Security in leprosy, an appointment he relinquished in 1979. He was the medical consultant to the Leprosy Mission from 1965-78, and for several years was medical secretary to LEPRA and editor of the Leprosy Review.

His organizational abilities were widely sought and he was appointed secretary and treasurer of the International Leprosy Association from 1966-84. He was president of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from 1977-79, and WHO consultant on the training of medical auxiliaries, and adviser on its onchocerciasis programme in West Africa. Being fluent in French, he was visiting professor at the Antwerp Tropical Medicine Institute and the universities of Strasbourg and Rome. He was a member of the Leprosy Expert Panel of the World Health Organization and chairman of the medical commission of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations.

As a highly respected Christian doctor, Stanley Browne was president of the Christian Medical Fellowship of Great Britain from 1969-71, chairman of its overseas committee 1966-77, president of the International Congress of Christian Physicians 1982-86, president of the Ludhiana British Fellowship, and became the first doctor president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1980.

He was a gifted teacher and writer, adding over 500 learned articles to scientific journals, mainly on leprosy, tropical dermatology and tropical medicine. He beame president of the International Association of Physicians to the Overseas Services from 1982-84, and his wide interest in ecumenical matters was shown in his appointment to the executive committee of the International Schweitzer Fellowship, and adviser to Mother Teresa's leprosy hospital in Calcutta.

Stanley Browne was an outstanding advocate of cooperation between missions and governments on health matters and was responsible for initiating programmes in which leprosy was integrated into general health services. His important contributions to tropical medicine have been recognized by the award of the Stewart prize for epidemiology from the British Medical Association, the medal of the Royal Africa Society, the Ambuj Nath Bose prize for tropical medicine from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and the JN Chaudry gold medal from the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine. He was also awarded the Damien Duton award for outstanding contributions to leprosy. As a Fellow of King’s College London, he became one of the first three Fellows of King’s College Hospital medical school in 1978. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1961. Among the many other honours he received, apart from the CMG and OBE, there were three from the King of the Belgians: the Chevalier de l’Ordre Royal du Lion, Officer de l’Ordre de Leopold II, and the insignia of Commander of the Order of Leopold - the highest honour accorded in Belgium to a civilian.

His wife Mali, and sons, survived him.

DS Browne
WH Jopling

[Brit.med.J., 1986,292,491,705; Lancet, 1986.1,455; Baptist Times, 17 Apr 1980; Kent & Sussex Courier, 26 June 1970; Brit.med.J., 1966,1,305; Medical News 14 Jan 1960; Battle against leprosy..., Nancy Martin, 1985; Mister Leprosy..., Phyllis Thompson, 1980; Bonganga,Sylvia & Peter Duncan, 1956; Heralds of health:the saga of Christian missions, ed. S.G.Browne et al,CMF Publications, 1985; Research papers (Zaire) to 1985 at Wellcome Trop.Inst.,London]

(Volume VIII, page 59)

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