John Brown

Biography of John Brown

John C Brown
John C Brown

John Campbell Brown (1947-2019) was Professor of Astrophysics at the University in 1984 and became Regius Professor of Astronomy in 1996. He was Astronomer Royal for Scotland from 1995 until his death. In June 2016 he became an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) for his promotion of astronomy and science education.

John, an enthusiastic amateur astronomer from the age of 10, was educated at Dumbarton Academy, where he won the Dux and Denny medals, before joining the University of Glasgow, where he gained his 1st Class B.Sc. Physics & Astronomy in 1968. He then joined the Department of Astronomy as a Research Assistant, and completed his Ph.D. in solar plasma physics in 1973. In 1984 he was awarded the Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) from Glasgow for his work in plasma astrophysics.

Much of his academic career was at the University of Glasgow, where John became Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, Chair of Astrophysics*, and Regius Professor of Astronomy. Also over a long and varied career, he held many visiting fellowships in Europe, the USA, Brazil and Australia, and held honorary professorships of the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen for over 20 years.

He received many academic honours among which were the Royal Astronomical Gold Medal for Geophysics (2012); the NASA Team/Co-I Achievement Award for Excellence of RHESSI Mission (2003); IoP Award for Promotion of Public Awareness of Physics (2002) the Armagh Robinson Medal Lecturer (1998); Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow Kelvin Medal (1996); Glasgow University Kelvin Medal for D.Sc. thesis (1983-86).

John was Honorary President of the British Association of Planetaria and supported amateur astronomers and Astronomical Societies. He was notable for his public engagement work, visiting schools and universities, supporting television and theatre work, to promote astronomy and encourage others. He sometimes performed magic in his talks, or quoted Scots poetry, and lectured on subjects such as 'Who puts the Iron in Irn Bru?' and 'Black Holes and White Rabbits'.

In addition to his book with Ian Craig on Inverse Problems in Astronomy, in 2019, along with the Scots Poet Rab Wilson, he published 'Oor Big Braw Cosmos, A Cocktail of Cosmic Science, Imagery and Poetry'.

John passed away in November 2019 at the age of 72 in the family cottage on the Isle of Skye.

*During John Brown’s tenure of the Chair of Natural Philosophy, from 1984-1996, it was referred to as the Chair of Astrophysics.


John Brown
Physicist and Astronomer

Born 1947.
Died 16 November 2019.
University Link: Professor
GU Degrees: BSc, 1968; PhD, 1973; DSc, 1984;
Occupation categories: astronomers; physicists
Search for this person in UK Who's Who
Record last updated: 1st Jul 2020

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