Walter Brown

Born: 29 April 1886 in Glasgow, Scotland
Died: 14 April 1957 in Marandellas, near Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe)

Walter Brown's father was Hugh A Brown, a Headmaster in Paisley, Renfrewshire. Walter attended Allan Glen's School, Glasgow, completing his studies there in 1903, the year he first matriculated at Glasgow University. He studied mathematics and physics, graduating with a B.Sc. with Honours in these subjects in 1907. He then remained at Glasgow studying Pure Science and graduated in this topic in 1910.

Brown then spent three years, 1911-1914, as an Assistant Master at Allan Glen's School, Glasgow, the school where he had been educated. In 1914 he left Scotland when he accepted an appointment as a Lecturer in Engineering at Hong Kong University. In 1918 he was appointed as Professor of Pure and Applied Mathematics at Hong Kong University. He was still in this post when World War II began but at this stage Hong Kong was not in danger. However, the Japanese attacked Pearl harbour on 7 December 1941, then on the following day began an attack on Hong Kong. The British forces began to withdraw from Hong Kong on 12 December and six days later the Japanese forces landed. Hong Kong surrendered on Christmas day 1941. Brown was taken prisoner by the Japanese and held in Stanley Camp. After the war ended Hong Kong University reopened but at this stage Brown retired and returned to Scotland where he worked first as a Lecturer in Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, during 1946-47, and then a lecturer in Mathematics at Glasgow University in 1947-48.

Brown joined the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in March 1911. He became an associate member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1920. During his time in Hong Kong he played a major role in many organisations, for example the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society (of which he was President), the Hong Kong English Association, the Hong Kong Sino-British Association, and the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers and Shipbuilders.

Walter Brown was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 5 March 1923, his proposers being Andrew Gray, George A Gibson, John Walter Gregory, James Gordon Gray, Dugald Black McQuistan.

An obituary, written anonymously, appears in the Royal Society of Edinburgh Year Book 1958, pages 14-15.
We give a version of this obituary at THIS LINK.

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

November 2007
MacTutor History of Mathematics