Lives of the fellows

Jehoiada John Brown

b.17 August 1926 d.16 April 2009
BSc Lond(1948) MB BS(1952) MRCS LRCP(1952) MRCP(1957) FRCP(1970) FRSE

Jehoiada John Brown, known as ‘Joyda’, was a well known physician and clinical scientist who worked at the Medical Research Council (MRC) blood pressure unit at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow. He had an international reputation as an authority on the diagnosis and treatment of patients with complex blood pressure related problems and, due to the warmth of his personality, developed a close personal rapport with many that he treated.

Born in Croescyceilog, Monmouthshire, he was the son of William Edward, a master cabinet-maker also prominent in local government, and his wife, Margaret Elizabeth née Hughes, whose father, John, was a steel worker. Proud of his Welsh upbringing, Brown was very much influenced by his father’s combination of craftsmanship and public service, and it was this background, plus the non-conformist tradition of hard work, which was to shape his approach to his future career.

Educated at West Monmouthshire Grammar School, he excelled at sport and represented Welsh schools at athletics and rugby. He began his studies at Cardiff University but transferred to St Mary’s after a year due to their reputation for winning rugby competitions. After qualifying in 1951, he did house jobs at St Mary’s, Hammersmith, and Brompton Hospitals before joining the RAF in 1954, to do his two years National Service.

Returning to St Mary’s as a lecturer in medicine in 1956, he continued his training under Sir George Pickering [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.464], who was the leading figure in hypertension research at the time and fostered his growing interest in the subject. When Pickering moved to Oxford as regius professor, Brown continued at St Mary’s working with Stanley Peart in laboratory investigations into the regulation of blood flow. Two other outstanding clinical researchers joined the team, Anthony Lever and Ian (‘Bob’) Robertson and together they produced a series of important studies on the use of renin, a hormone produced by the kidney, to regulate blood flow. Brown’s particular contribution was to produce meticulous contrasting studies of disease mechanisms in normal subjects and patients.

In 1967 he moved to Glasgow and, with Lever and Robertson, established the MRC blood pressure unit at the Western Infirmary. Lever became the director and they were joined by another colleague from St Mary‘s, Robert Fraser. At the same time Brown was appointed honorary consultant physician to the Infirmary and honorary lecturer in medicine at the University of Glasgow. For over 20 years the blood pressure unit maintained a highly productive level of research into the basic mechanisms of regulating blood pressure and the role of hormones such as aldosterone in hypertensive disorders. His conscientious and accurate data recording meant that, in an era before such things were possible electronically, information from large patient cohorts could be systematically analysed.

The work produced was very much a team effort. Brown appeared as author or co-author on more than 150 papers, including reviews of renin with particular reference to plasma renin concentrations and control of aldosterone secretions. Unusually, the prestigious Ciba award by the High Blood Pressure Council of the USA, the highest recognition in the field at that time, was presented to Brown, Lever and Robertson jointly.

An enthusiastic and talented communicator, Brown mentored many junior staff over the years, both from the UK and further afield. The specialist unit was a training ground for scientists from all over the world and he maintained contact with many when they returned to their own countries. He was also highly regarded by his patients whom he treated with care and respect, remaining in touch with some of them even after his retirement in 1992.

He retained some informal practice in retirement and relished spending more time with his family and grandchildren. In his youth he had played rugby and did athletics, later he enjoyed reading and carpentry. With the skills he had learnt from his father he embarked on an ambitious programmed of home improvement.

In 1955, he married his childhood sweetheart, Irene Audrey née Meredith, whose father, Wilfred, was a steel worker. Irene predeceased him and he was survived by his sons, Andrew and Christopher, and two grandchildren.

RCP editor

[BMJ - accessed 20 November 2009; The Herald Scotland - accessed 12 February 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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