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American Medical Biographies/Brown, Gustavus Richard

Brown, Gustavus Richard (1747–1804)

A son of Dr. Gustavus Brown, by his second marriage, he was born, according to his own statement, at his father's seat near Port Tobacco, Maryland, October 17, 1747, and educated at Edinburgh University where he took his M. D. in 1768, his thesis being "De Ortu Animalium Caloris." Among his fellow students was Dr. Benjamin Rush, who said that he was second to no student in the university at that period.

After "walking" the London hospitals for several months, he returned to Maryland, stopping on the way for some time at the Madeira Islands, and bringing thence a large collection of rare plants and flowers. He settled to practice at Port Tobacco. During the Revolution he was a firm and active patriot. He was a county judge in 1776 and 1777. In the spring of the former year, in company with his nephew, Dr. James Wallace, he established a hospital for the inoculation of smallpox near the Potomac river, on the Virginia side. He was a member of the State Convention, which was called to ratify the constitution of the national government in 1788.

Like his father, Dr. Brown was a man of fine personal appearance, being over six feet and well proportioned. His manners were pleasant and affable, and he was a well-read physician and fine classical scholar. He was particularly fond of botany and cultivated with great care and success an extensive garden of rare flowers and plants, not for their beauty alone, but for their medicinal qualities. It was the most extensive and artistic collection in the state, occupying a sloping lawn of some ten acres, with three terraces and interlaced with serpentine walks, bordered with box-wood, savin, juniper and other rare evergreens. His collection had been gathered from all parts of the world and his home took its name from his rare and extensive collection of roses. He provided means of irrigation for the summer, and a large hot-house for propagating plants and for the care of the more delicate during the winter. Dr. Hosack (q.v.) is said to have been a frequent visitor to Brown during the former's residence in Alexandria, Virginia, about 1791, and to have thus gained the idea for the public botanical garden which he afterwards founded in New York City.

Brown was a favorite preceptor with medical students from the adjoining parts of Maryland and Virginia. From the close of the Revolution to his death his office is said to have been filled with them.

In his practice he is said to have used but few remedies, those being of the most efficient character.

Both his sons became physicians. An interesting letter from Dr. Brown to Dr. Craik is published in "Lossing's History," Rec. 11, 506, quoted in "Hayden," in which the former acknowledges that they were wrong in bleeding Washington so much.

Dr. Brown died at his house "Rose Hill," September 30, 1804, aged fifty-six. He was in active practice up to his last short illness.

On May 15, 1769, Dr. Brown married Miss Margaret Graham, of Prince William County, Virginia, and had four children, two daughters and two sons.