In memoriam Barry F. Brown, 1934-2022

Published: October 3, 2022

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The Department of Philosophy mourns Professor Emeritus Barry F. Brown, a cherished colleague, teacher, and long-time member and supporter of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.

Brown, who was born in small-town Manitoba in 1934 and raised in Vancouver, B.C., first joined U of T as a master’s student after having completed a bachelor’s degree at the University of British Columbia. He went on to pursue his doctoral studies in Philosophy under the supervision of Josef Owen and then began his professorial career in 1967, in what was then still a separate Department of Philosophy at St. Michael’s College. Although initially a specialist of Thomas Aquinas, Brown quickly developed an interest in the then-emergent field of bioethics. He began teaching and lecturing on the subject in the 1970s and devoted most of his career to this area of research.

His scholarship focused on the ethics of research involving human subjects, an interest that led to Brown co-creating the first bioethics course taught at U of T, called “Morality, Medicine, and the Law,” in the 1980s. Later his commitment to medical ethics contributed to the further development of the department’s undergraduate program in Bioethics and its liaison with the University’s Joint Centre for Bioethics, and to his consultancy for many years to the University’s Office research Services. Brown also served as associate chair, undergraduate, in the Department of Philosophy and on the University’s Governing Council. Outside U of T, Brown was a member of Ontario’s Health Research and Development Council and presided over the Toronto Chapter and the National Board of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Canada.

Having taught at the University for more than 30 years, Brown retired in 1999—but for many years he continued unabated his engagement with ethical questions in science and health care, for example by joining Ethica Clinical Research as chair of its review committee and serving, well into his eighties, on the Quality Committee of the Board at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.

For his unrelenting efforts, Brown in 2003 received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Human Research Protection from the Health Improvement Institute.

Lloyd P. Gerson first met Brown in 1970 when he was a PhD student and served as the elder scholar’s teaching assistant in PHL200Y, a course in ancient philosophy. “I could not have asked for a better mentor,” Gerson states with fondness. He continues: “When I was hired by the department at St. Michael’s College in 1974, Barry graciously turned over to me all teaching in ancient, though he had been doing it for years. Over the years until his retirement he was a kind and generous colleague, always very glad to discuss ancient Greek and medieval philosophy with me. I learned a lot about Aquinas from him. Barry loved his family, his Church, and his country unconditionally. I will miss his unfailing good cheer and common decency.”

The department’s thoughts are with Brown’s family and many friends during this time of loss.