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Biographical entry Browne, Stanley George (1907 - 1986)

CMG; OBE; MRCS 1933; MB,BS 1933; MD London 1954; MRCP1934; FRCP1961; DTM Antwerp 1936; FKC; LRCP 1933.

8 December 1907
29 January 1986
Tropical medicine specialist


Stanley Browne was born on 8 December 1907, in New Cross, London, the second son of Arthur Browne, a civil servant, and of his wife Edith (née Lillywhite). The family originated in Norwich, and were connected with the foundation of English nonconformity.

Early education was at Waller Road (New Cross) Elementary School, Brockley Central School and at LCC evening classes. On leaving school at the age of 16 he took an appointment in the Town Clerk's department of Deptford Borough Council. While there he passed the College of Preceptors' Senior Certificate examination with distinctions. He also studied at the LCC Evening Institutes in Forest Hill and Peckham, from which he took examinations of the Royal Society of Arts (English, with medal, and French with distinction), of the National Union of Teachers (including English with medal) and in Pitman's shorthand (120 words a minute). He took part five times in the All-England National Sunday School Union scripture examinations, winning gold, silver and bronze medals. In 1926 he passed the London Matriculation in the first division, and took supplementary logic in 1927. The same year he was awarded an LCC non-vocational scholarship tenable for two years at King's College. There he gained further prizes before proceeding to King's College Hospital with the Raymond Gooch Scholarship.

At King's he won prizes, medals and distinctions in every branch of medicine, surgery, obstetrics and pathology. He became an Associate of King's College (AKC) and later FKC.

After graduating in 1933 with honours in the London MB, BS (distinctions in surgery, forensic medicine and hygiene) and taking the Conjoint Diploma the same year he was appointed house physician to Sir Charlton Briscoe, JL Livingstone and Terence East and then house surgeon to Cecil Wakeley, Edward Muir, HLC Wood and Yates Bell. He was specially influenced by Cecil Wakeley and by Edward Muir, whose first house surgeon he was. Then, after locum medical and surgical registrarships he studied in Antwerp at the Institut de Médecine Tropicale. In 1934 he had successfully sat for the MRCP examination and in 1935 for the FRCS. As a postgraduate he had also been awarded the Murchison Scholarship of the Royal College of Physicians of London and the Sir Charlton Briscoe Prize for research from King's College Hospital. In 1936 he took the DIM Antwerp, and felt prepared for his life's ambition, to be a medical missionary. He sailed for Africa the same year to serve with the Baptist Missionary Society at Yakusu in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire).

At Yakusu he was in charge of an area of 10,000 square miles in which he developed from scratch a programme of community care based on 18 health centres and 35 treatment centres. These became a model in Africa for the control of endemic diseases. One of his achievements was the discovery of the larval stage of Onchocerca volvulus, which led to the control of river blindness over a large area. His main scientific pre-occupation was in the field of leprosy. His prolific publications, both in English and French, gained him wide recognition. During his time in the Congo he was Medécin Agré, Congo, Belge; Médecin-Directeur, first of the École Agrée d'Infirmiers, then of the Service Médicale de la BMS, Yakusu and finally of the Leproserie de Yalisombo.

In 1949 Browne left the Congo and was appointed senior specialist leprologist and director of the Leprosy Research Unit, Ukuakoli, Eastern Nigeria. There he did pioneering studies on B663, one of the newly synthesised riminophenazine compounds. It proved to be one of the three most effective anti-leprosy drugs, and was also found to have anti-inflammatory properties. It was later named Clofazimine. His work received wide recognition. He was appointed associate lecturer in leprosy at the Universities of Ibadan and Lagos and received a Leverhulme travel grant, to investigate training of medical auxiliaries in the Belgian Congo, and a World Health Organisation grant to visit leprosy research institutions. He became medical consultant to the Leprosy Mission, the Order of Charity, the Hospital and Homes of St Giles, the All-Africa Leprosy Rehabilitation and Training Centre (ALERT), the Albert Schweizer Hospital at Lambarene (English Committee), the Chairman of the Christian Medical Fellowship and of the editorial board of Leprosy review. He was also a member of the editorial board of the International journal of leprosy and of Tropical Doctor. He was secretary and treasurer of the International Leprosy Association and Vice-President (1971-73) of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

His foreign appointments included Conseiller Technique, Association de Leprologues de Langue Francaise; Visiting Professor, Institut de Médecine Tropicale, Antwerp; Membre Titulaire, Société Belge de Médecine Tropicale, and honorary member of the Argentine Society of Pharmacology and Therapeutics and of the Argentine Society of Investigative Leprology.

Browne was an indefatigable worker, and published in all some 500 articles on medical subjects - mainly leprosy, tropical dermatology, filariasis, onchocerciasis and medical education in the tropics. These appeared in English and French in 30 or so journals. He was also a dedicated Christian - President 1969-71, of the Christian Medical Fellowship and Chairman, 1972-75, of the International Congress of Christian Physicians. The publications by which he wished to be remembered were Congo, as the doctor sees it and Leprosy, new hope and continuity challenge. He was proud to be the subject of a book by Sylvia and Peter Duncan (Odhams, 1958), Bonganga, the story of a missionary doctor.

After leaving Africa "Leprosy Browne", as he was widely known, put the damage to his work at Uzuakoli during the Nigerian civil war behind him. As director of the Leprosy Study Centre in London he continued until it was closed in 1980. He was adviser in leprosy to the DHSS and medical secretary of Lepra.

He remained an active Christian, and was President of the Baptist Union, 1980-81. He was a powerful speaker on religious occasions.

He married in 1940 Ethel Marion Williamson, MA Oxon, daughter of the Rev HR Williamson, D.Litt, the distinguished sinologist. They had three sons, two of them doctors, members of the College.

He died suddenly on 29 January 1986, aged 78.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Daily Telegraph 15 February 1986; Brit. med. J. 1986, 292, 491, 705; Lancet 1986, 1, 455].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England