Arch Virol (2005) 150: 199–200
Fred Brown (1925–2004)
red Brown FRS OBE, who was a major ﬁgure
in virology for more than 50 years, died at the
age of 79 on February 20
2004. Fred was born
and educated in the north of England and throughout
his life he never failed to display his Lancastrian
heritage. After a brilliant career at Burnley Grammar
School, where he was not only School Captain but
also Captain of Cricket and Football, he was educated
at Manchester University where he studied chemistry
and took a ﬁrst class honours degree. His doctoral
studies were in carbohydrate chemistry and his PhD thesis was entitled “Investigations into the
chemical constitution and structure of some complex plant polysaccharides”. After receiving
his PhD in 1948, Fred worked in Bristol University, the Hannah Research Institute in Scotland,
and at the Christie Hospital in Manchester before moving in 1955 to what was to be his major
career position in the Department of Biochemistry at the Animal Virus Research Institute
in Pirbright, Surrey. He became the Head of the Biochemistry Department in 1964, and in
1980 became Deputy Director for Science of the Institute for a short period before leaving in
1983 to become Head of Virology Research and Development at Wellcome Biotechnology
in Beckenham, Kent. He remained there until 1990, when he went to the USA to do his last
research work on foot-and-mouth disease at the USDA Plum Island Animal Disease Center.
He moved back to the UK just ﬁve weeks before he died.
Fred’s major contribution to virology was his leadership of studies to deﬁne the chemical
structure and replication of foot-and-mouth disease virus, as well as some associated viruses
which produce similar clinical pictures in cattle and pigs – vesicular stomatitis virus, vesicular
exanthema of swine virus, and swine vesicular disease virus. When he started out, virtually
nothing was known about the molecular biology of these viruses, but his work culminated in
the determination of the crystal structure of foot-and-mouth disease virus, published in 1989.
His scientiﬁc distinction was recognized by his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society in
1981, and in 1999 his service to British science was recognized with the award of an OBE.
Fred served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of General Virology from 1975 until 1980,
and in recognition of his many contributions, the Society for General Microbiology made him
an honorary member in 1991.
Fred was involved in the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) from
1968, when he joined the Rhabdovirus Study Group and later the Picornavirus Study Group.
From 1981 to 1987 he was President of ICTV, and in 1982 he became a member of the IUMS
Executive Board, serving as Vice-President from 1986 to 1990.