Karl Brown

Born in in 1925 in the rural Utah town of Coalville to a carpenter/farmer and a nurse with no money to speak of, Karl Brown followed a not entirely uncommon path, that of a bright, curious young student fortunate enough to cross paths early in life with a great teacher. His first science teacher, Bry Copley, ignited and nurtured Karl’s passion for science enough to draw him to college where his interests evolved towards modern particle physics.

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In 1946, for his senior year, Karl transferred to Stanford University where he first began designing and building particle accelerators, the tools used to break apart atomic nuclei and discover their contents. In 1957, he contributed to the design report and was later a core team member for the project that become known as the Stanford Linear Accelerator. Known to scientists world wide, the Stanford Linear Accelerator has made world class contributions to scientific discovery for over fifty years. It is still in operation and visible by virtue of its distinct two mile long superstructure crossing underneath Interstate 280 near the Stanford campus.

In 1958, he introduced matrix algebra to calculate magnetic-optical aberrations in charged particle spectrometers. This mathematical invention enabled him to develop computational methods to automate much of the design of spectrometers, beam lines and accelerators. The resulting software, known as TRANSPORT became and remains the basic tool used worldwide for this purpose.

Dr. Brown contributed directly to accelerators at many other organizations, as a consultant, a visiting scientist, and staff member, and as president and chief scientist of Spectromagnetics, an accelerator magnet design and manufacturing company. Following its sale to Varian Associates, Dr. Brown served two years as Senior Scientist and Director of Research at Varian’s Radiation Division. During this period, the commercial development of the CLINAC began, the world’s most successful series of linear accelerators for cancer treatment. Coincidentally, in 2001, Karl was successfully treated for cancer by one of the current CLINAC models.

For decades, Dr. Brown was recognized as the world’s expert on magnetic transport systems. He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and in 1989, the US Accelerator Schoolawarded him the Prize for Achievement in Accelerator Physics and Technology. However, Karl believed that his greatest accomplishment was the CLINAC series which now treats 100,000 cancer patients per day.

In comprehension of his great debt to education and quality teachers, Dr. Brown was a steadfast and passionate advocate for science literacy such that his family judged it the most fitting context in which to honor his memory. The Karl Brown Physics Teacher Jump Start Program is their contribution to that cause.