James William Brown was born in Gloucester, the son of Charles Edward Brown, the founder of a sack hiring business, and Edith, the daughter of William Theyer, a yeoman farmer of Shurdington. As a Quaker educated at the Society of Friends School at Sidcot, he served with a Friends Ambulance Unit in France from 1916 to 1919, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1917 for evacuating six wounded soldiers under heavy fire.
As a student he showed himself an expert in histology, which he demonstrated in the physiology department of Middlesex Hospital, and on qualifying he became resident casualty officer with his own out-patient department. In 1924 he joined the practice of Dr Williamson, a general practitioner who was also senior surgeon to the Grimsby Hospital, but maintained his interest in pathology, becoming honorary pathologist to the Grimsby Hospital and then honorary physician.
The year 1930 saw the beginning of his work on congenital heart disease when he was invited by D. C. Muir to join him in running a heart clinic for school children which became the prototype for those he established in Grimsby and the Holland and Lindsey divisions of Lincolnshire. He was therefore well qualified to write with Evan Bedford the section on congenital heart disease in the British encyclopaedia of medical practice. This and his own book on the subject were of particular importance to developing cardiac surgery (Congenital heart disease, 1939; 2nd ed. 1950).
In 1938 Brown had given up general practice to become consultant to the hospitals in Grimsby, Louth, Scunthorpe, Boston, Skegness and Lincoln, while still retaining his association with Hull. In 1942 the College had appointed him Bradshaw lecturer. After the Second World War he was appointed cardiologist to the Leicester Chest Clinic and in 1952 Regional cardiologist with a new department at Sheffield, working with continuing zeal and energy to within a few weeks of his death.
His hobby was the collecting of old china, pictures and furniture from the junk shops of the Midlands and the North, which he joined to a great love of fishing during his extensive travels. He nevertheless found time to serve on the College Committees of Consultants, Rheumatic Fever and Cardiology, and on the editorial board of the British Heart Journal.
In 1925 he married Margaret, his partner’s daughter. They had one son and one daughter.
Richard R Trail
[Brit. Heart J., 1959, 21, 284-8, bibl.; Brit.med.J., 1958, 2, 802-03, 1048-9; Lancet, 1958, 2, 755, 805. Photo.]