The Legacy Collection

2018 Legacy Inductee

Harold Whaley Brown, MD (1898 – 1978)

Legacy Summary Statement

Harold Whaley Brown was an internationally acclaimed leader in his chosen specialty of strabismus. His superb teaching style was based on his extensive practical clinical and surgical experience. He believed in finding things out for himself. He was a superb observer and he made original descriptions of several previously unrecognized syndromes, the most well-known being termed “Brown’s Syndrome”.


Dr. Brown was born in Utah, June 22, 1898. The grandson of one of the original Utah pioneers, John Brown and the son of John Lehi Brown, Professor of Education at Brigham Young University. His dedicated Mormon background and high values were an important part of his life. He served a two-year mission for the church from 1918 to 1920.

He attended Brigham Young University for two years and completed his medical education at the University of Minnesota in 1928 and did post-graduate work at the New York University Medical Center. He practiced general medicine for three years in Newark, New Jersey prior to an ophthalmology residency at the New York Postgraduate Hospital in New York City.

Dr. Brown practiced in New York City and from 1938 to 1946 was in practice with Dr. James Watson White. He was an attending at Bellevue Hospital and had faculty and consulting appointments at Columbia University Hospital and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. In his five decades of practice, writing and teaching, he served leadership positions and was included in many prestigious professional societies. He was Chairman of the Ophthalmology Section of the New York Academy of Medicine, Chairman of the New York Ophthalmological Society and a member of the Squint Club. He always did what he thought should be done, pretty much regardless of what the current fashion might be. While individualism was his hallmark he always presented his observations and ideas, including those at odds with the establishment, with impeccable manners. His was always very well respected by his colleagues, but more than that he was so often like a big brother. People who attended meetings with him have stated that they always came away learning something new or something they had not thought of.

He married Violet Afton Johnson in 1927 in the Salt Lake Temple. They formed a true partnership. Violet was almost always in the audience for Dr. Brown’s public presentations and appearances during their long life together, even in some situations where she might be the only spouse present. Together they attended, enjoyed and contributed to many worldwide medical meetings. There were indefatigable travelers. They both considered it a highlight of their lives when he received “Honorary Membership for Distinguished Service to Strabismology” by the International Strabismological Association, of which he was one of the organizers and charter members.

Although his ophthalmology practice and academic activities were based in New York, Harold and Violet always returned yearly to their Rocky Mountain Utah home. After retiring, they returned to Utah until Dr. Brown passed away on May 28, 1978.

Harold Whaley Brown Headshot