Malcolm Spencer Brown died peacefully at home on Nov. 3, his wife, Anne, and daughter, Melissa, by his side. He was 89.
A Renaissance man, Brown moved easily from philosophy to mathematics to environmental and social justice work. An emeritus professor of Greek philosophy at Brooklyn College and a scholar on the works of Plato, Brown was also a pioneer in renewable energy and community-led public radio.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, to missionary doctors Roswell and Enid Crump Brown, on Feb. 27, 1932, he was raised in Buffalo, N.Y., and married three times. With his first wife, Carol Gardner, he had three children: Duncan, Charlotte, and Lydia. With his second, Virginia Hayden, he had two: Melissa and Greg. He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Anne Larsen, whom he married on a bicycle trip to Alaska in 1985; his brother, Norm, and family; Carol, Duncan, and Lydia Brown; and Virginia Brown and Melissa Brown Neubauer, her husband, Kurt, and grandchildren Tess and Alec Neubauer.
Also surviving are special friends Kevin and Barbara Gref. He was predeceased by his son Greg, his daughter Charlotte, and his granddaughter Haley.
Malcolm graduated Amherst College in 1953, received his doctorate from Columbia University, and taught philosophy in colleges, including Reed, St. John’s (Annapolis), and Barnard, and 17 years at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center. In 1970, he spent a year as a fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C., pursuing his research into mathematics at the Old Academy. At CUNY, he was a pioneer in integrating computers in humanities research, and through the 1970s he arduously transliterated Greek to machine-readable form. In the 1970s and early 1980s, he published and presented papers at scholarly conferences in the United States, France, and England. He also edited texts still in use in college classrooms.
In 1992, he spent a year in post-Communist Bulgaria, where he taught philosophy, while Anne established a library at a newly established liberal arts college, the American University of Bulgaria. On their return, they opened The Good Earth health food store on Main Street, Jeffersonville, N.Y.
After several years, they moved to Hull, where Malcolm championed wind power and was elected to the Light Board on a renewable energy platform. He was aptly called “the Johnny Appleseed of Wind” due to his tireless work spreading Hull’s accomplishments to other Massachusetts towns.
In later years, Malcolm returned to his scholarly work, researching at Harvard University and visiting manuscript collections and scholars in Oxford, Helsinki, Amsterdam, Rome, Florence, and Venice. His scholarship continued to the end, with the last posting to his website this past summer.
Malcom was playful and sly and took pleasure in wordplay and gentle teasing. He was not shy to express his love and approached all people with kindness, interest, and respect. As a human, he was singular and unique and will be sorely missed by the many who loved and admired him.
There will be no funeral or visitation. A life celebration is planned. To be informed, email MalcolmBrownEvent@gmail.com.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Catskill Mountain Institute, dba The Malcolm Brown Institute for Purposeful Living, P.O. Box 567, Jeffersonville, NY 12748 (themalcolmbrowninstitute.org) or the ACLU, or plant a tree in his honor.