Alexander Brown

Quick Info

5 May 1877
Dalkeith, near Edinburgh, Scotland
27 January 1947
Cape Town, South Africa

Alexander Brown studied at Edinburgh and later at Cambridge. He became Professor of Applied Mathematics at the South African College which later became the University of Cape Town. His main contributions were to Geometry.


Alexander Brown attended Newton Public School from 1884 to 1887, then George Watson's College, Edinburgh from 1889 to 1893. He sat the Scottish Leaving Certificate examinations and passed Higher English, Mathematics, Latin, and Greek in June 1893.

He then entered the University of Edinburgh, studying Latin, Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Ordinary level in 1893-94. In session 1894-95 he studied the Ordinary courses in Chemistry and Political Economy, then in sessions 1895-96 and 1896-97 he took Honours courses in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. In the last of these two sessions he also took the Ordinary course in Education. Brown graduated with an M.A. with First Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in April 1897 and was awarded a B.Sc. (Pure), also in 1897.

Brown then taught as a Mathematics Master at Dundee High School for session 1897-8, then went to Gonville and Caius College of the University of Cambridge. In 1901 Brown was Senior Wrangler (ranked first in the First Class), and in Part II of the Mathematical Tripos in 1902 he obtained a First Class.

In 1903 Brown was appointed as Professor of Applied Mathematics in the South African College. In 1911 he married Mary Graham; they had a son and a daughter. He remained in Cape Town until his death in 1947, but his status changed in 1918 when the South African College became the University of Cape Town.

He was a member of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, joining the Society in December 1898. He contributed papers to meetings of the Society such as On the Ratio of Incommensurables in Geometry to the meeting on Friday 9 June 1905 and Relation between the distances of a point from three vertices of a regular polygon, at the meeting on Friday 11 June 1909, communicated by D C McIntosh.

Brown was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa in 1918, was on its Council from 1931 to 1935 and again in 1941, was its Honorary Treasurer from 1936 to 1940, and President from 1942 to 1945. Alexander Brown was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 20 May 1907, his proposers being George Chrystal, Arthur John Pressland, John Sturgeon Mackay, and John Alison.

An obituary, written by Lawrence Crawford, appears in the Royal Society of Edinburgh Year Book 1949, pages 10-11.
We give a version of this obituary at THIS LINK.

References (show)

  1. L Crawford, Alexander Brown, M.A., B.Sc., Royal Society of Edinburgh Year Book 1949, 10-11.
  2. Biographical Index of Staff and Alumni (University of Edinburgh).
  3. Graduates in Arts, 1884-1925 (University of Edinburgh).
  4. Graduates in Arts (University of Edinburgh).

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Written by J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
Last Update November 2007