UCL Department of Geography


Professor Eric Brown, 1922-2018

9 January 2018

Messages of appreciation

Professor Eric Brown, 1922-2018

Professor Eric Brown died peacefully at Berkhamsted on 5 January. He has been associated with UCL Geography for almost seven decades.

His undergraduate course at Kings College London had been interrupted by war service as an RAF pilot in Coastal Command, subsequently the basis for many engaging stories.

He then gained a first-class degree in 1947, greatly influenced by Professor Sidney Wooldridge, the leading geomorphologist of the period. After being appointed to teach at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, he began doctoral research, which eventually resulted in the publication of The Relief and Drainage of Wales (1960).

Late in 1949, Professor H C Darby recruited Eric to join the UCL Geography Department to develop physical geography teaching and research. He remained at UCL for the rest of his career, becoming Reader in 1960 and a Professor six years later.

As a specialist in geomorphology, Eric was an inspiring teacher in the field and supervised at least three dozen doctoral students. With Professor Bill Mead, for many years he also taught a popular course on North America.

At UCL he was Dean of Students (1972-5) and Director of Alumni Relations (1989-91), and also served on the Senate of the University of London (1981-6). In 1978 he was President of the Institute of British Geographers and was Honorary Secretary (1977-87) and then Vice-President (1988-9) of the Royal Geographical Society. In 2002, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of York in recognition of his long and dedicated career in Geography.

Among early tributes from past colleagues

A man of immense energy, understanding, determination and ability to help others. I think he supervised more PhD students in British geography who went on to become professors than anyone else.

To me, Eric was not only a much-appreciated colleague but a great human being.

He truly was a good man, always frank, open to criticism, but loyal to those he trusted.

Eric was one of the great names of British geomorphology. I knew his name as an undergraduate and was thrilled to meet him in person at UCL. He was also a great UCL man. He knew in detail what was going on in the College, even in retirement, and understood the dynamics of UCL better than most.

Eric was my first-year undergraduate tutor (in the mid-1960s).  I found him to be a bit stern and scary at the beginning but soon began to appreciate what a kind man he was.  Later on he became a much-respected colleague, although we chatted more about rugby than physical geography when we met!