Thomas Arnold Brown, M.A., B.Sc. (Edin.), B.A. (Cantab.).

RSE Obituary

by D Rees

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Thomas Arnold Brown was born on May 21, 1893. He received his early education at George Watson's College, Edinburgh, becoming, before he left, Dux of the School. In 1911 he proceeded to Edinburgh University from which he graduated M.A., in 1915, with First Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, being awarded the Napier medal for the best performance in Mathematics in the Final Honours degree examinations. While receiving military training with an O.T.C. unit in 1915 he commenced research under Sir Edmund Whittaker and published his first paper. In 1916 he was commissioned, and he served both at home and overseas until 1919. In 1919 he was awarded a Carnegie Fellowship and went to Trinity College, Cambridge, to research under E W Hobson. He became a Rayleigh Prizeman and was awarded the degree of B.A. by research, this being before the introduction of the Ph.D. degree in Cambridge. In 1921 he was appointed a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at University College, London.

In 1923 he was elected to the Chair of Mathematics in the University College of the South West at Exeter, and here he remained until his retirement in 1958. The Mathematics department is his monument. During the first twenty-five years or so of his professorship, he prepared a steady stream of students for external degrees in Mathematics of London University, with a staff which for the greater part of that period varied between three and five, including himself As a result, Professor Brown had to undertake a considerable amount of teaching in both Pure and Applied Mathematics, apart from the inevitable administrative duties. As a result, he found it impossible to devote much time to research, in which he had made so promising a beginning. Nevertheless, he maintained his interest in Mathematics and when, in the period after the war, the opportunity came to expand the department, he seized it with both hands and the department grew considerably in stature, two of his appointments during this period being of men who obtained chairs elsewhere within ten years of their original appointment at Exeter.

When he retired in 1958, the department, in what had now become the University of Exeter, could look forward to the future with confidence in the foundations he had laid. During his retirement he remained in Exeter, and was a constant visitor in the department. He died on May 13, 1965, leaving a widow and two sons.

He had been a Fellow of the Society since 1924.

Thomas Arnold Brown was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 3 March 1924, his proposers being Sir Edmund Taylor Whittaker, A Crichton Mitchell, Sir Ernest Maclagan Wedderburn, Ralph A Sampson. This obituary, written by D Rees, appears in the Royal Society of Edinburgh Year Book 1966, pages 11-12.