Robert H. Brown, Jr. ’69

Honorary degree recipient Robert H. Brown, Jr. '69
Doctor of Science

Robert H. Brown, Jr. is a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and is renowned for his pioneering work on the genetics of the motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—a rapidly paralyzing disorder that currently has no treatment. The first to identify an ALS gene in 1993, Brown and his associates subsequently helped to find two more ALS genes and to develop animal models of motor neuron disease.

In 1984, Brown founded Day Laboratory for Neuromuscular Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, now an internationally recognized center for research and clinical care in this field. In addition to his work on ALS, Brown has conducted productive research on a range of diseases affecting muscles and movement and directs the hospital’s Muscular Dystrophy Association clinic.

Committed to finding effective treatments for patients as quickly as possible, Brown initiated the ALS Therapy Alliance to share scientific and medical insights into ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders. His colleagues have consistently praised his dedication to direct work with patients and their support groups, balanced with the strenuous demands of his research program.

Brown’s research has been published in the most distinguished scientific journals, including Science and Nature. His work has garnered many accolades, including his inductions into the Institute of Medicine and the American Neurological Association. In 2007, Brown received the Robert Wartenberg Lecture Award from the American Academy of Neurology for excellence in clinically relevant research.

Brown graduated from Amherst in 1969, having completed an interdisciplinary biophysics major and earning the coveted Psi Upsilon First Citizen Award for the graduate pre-eminent in scholarship, leadership, athletics and character. In the days before combined M.D./Ph.D. programs were established, Brown completed his medical training at Harvard and went on to earn a D.Phil. at Oxford. He has worked in the Harvard medical system throughout his career, first as a neurology resident and then as a faculty member in the neurology department.

Hear Robert H. Brown, Jr. speak on "Searching the Globe for Disease Genes," on the multimedia page, Conversations with Honorary Degree Recipients.