James Brooking Brown, BA’40

Jim Brown, emeritus professor of experimental physics at the University of Kent (UK), died in April 2018.

During WWII, Jim worked with the Royal Canadian Navy on degaussing ships and on studying underwater sound, including trials of the hydrophone array on a captured German U‑885 submarine. He was demobilized in Scotland as electrical lieutenant RCNVR in October 1945, and began a doctorate in low temperature physics at the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford, shortly thereafter. Then, seeking adventure and the opportunity to explore, he went to Lingnan University in Canton, China. His work on a new type of expansion liquefier to produce the first liquid helium in Asia was interrupted by the arrival at his university of the advancing victorious Red Army during the establishment of the Communist government. This was followed the next year by the expulsion of Westerners, including Professor Brown. He used to happily regale colleagues with stories of his time in China, of which he clearly had many fond memories.

He then spent two years on liquid helium research at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. During the Korean war, he heard from former students on both sides of the conflict. From Ontario he returned to BC, publishing work on liquid helium and superconducting thin films.

Arriving in Kent with the university’s first undergraduates in 1965, Jim established the Low Temperature Laboratory. With colleagues, he effected the first application of the quartz microbalance to measure thickness of the helium film and measured the Bernoulli effect in the flowing electronic fluid of a superconductor, as well as undertaking other work to elucidate the contact potential of metals under stress. More recently, Jim had been a member of Kent’s Applied Optics Group and still attended meetings on campus in his 90s.

Jim used to visit the campus regularly after his retirement. He was popular with students, with some of the “First 500” holding him in high regard and still in touch with him all these years later. Staff found his warm and gentle approach to life of comfort, reminding them of the good things in life.