Toronto has a permanent memorial to the vision of Alan Brown in its Children’s Hospital, conceived and built because of the intense devotion to their care that coloured his forceful personality from his student days. He was the son of George William Brown, general manager of a wholesale firm, and Gavina, daughter of John Gowans, who had emigrated from Kilmarnock, Scotland. Through his mother, who had given up her studies to marry, and her great-great-grandfather, Gavin Hamilton, an Army surgeon at the Battle of Waterloo, he inherited an interest in medicine.
Immediately after graduation as silver medallist he underwent five years’ training in paediatrics in New York, Munich, Vienna, Berlin, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. Rapid promotion followed his return. In 1915 he was appointed junior physician to the Hospital for Sick Children and in 1919 associate professor of medicine with charge of paediatrics. From 1935 to 1952 he occupied the chair, was consulting paediatrician to the Toronto General Hospital, the Women’s College Hospital and the Riverside Hospital for Infectious Diseases, director of child hygiene to the Toronto Board and consultant to its counterparts, the federal and provincial Boards of Health.
Brown was a dedicated and friendly teacher, a prolific writer and an excellent lecturer. He published The Normal child (1923) and, with F. F. Tisdall, Common procedures in the practice of paediatrics (1926), and alone, or in collaboration with colleagues, wrote some 140 articles while a member of the advisory editorial board of the Archives of Disease in Childhood and corresponding member of the British Paediatric Association.
In 1940 he was Blackader orator to the Canadian Medical Association. He held many lectureships, among them the Engleby at Queen’s College, Birmingham, the Tisdall memorial, the Cushing memorial at McGill, the Eccles memorial at the Western Ontario University and the George Campbell in Ottawa.
Recognition of his valuable work came in the King’s Jubilee medal and in several fellowships. His greatest honour in his own reckoning, however, must have been the part he played in the compulsory pasteurisation of milk throughout Toronto in 1938, the climax of the original work with F. F. Tisdall, which had practically wiped out the incidence of new cases of bovine tuberculosis in the city of Toronto within a decade.
His research centre became the mecca of workers in tuberculosis, and by the time of his retirement his hospital the training school of seventy-five per cent of Canada’s paediatricians. Brown was a keen fisherman and an excellent shot. In 1914 he married Constance Hobbs; they had one daughter and adopted another.
Richard R Trail
[Bull. Amer. Coll. Phys, 1961, 2, 57-8; Lancet, 1960, 2, 1036; Toronto Evening Telegram, 8 Sept. 1960; Macmillan dictionary of Canadian biography, by W. S. Wallace. 3rd ed. London, 1963, 84.]