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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Brown, Morven Sydney (1914–1965)

by W. F. Connell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Morven Sydney Brown (1914-1965), professor of sociology, was born on 31 May 1914 at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, son of Sydney Morell Brown, labourer and later policeman, and his wife Marjorie Rose, née Graham, both native-born. Morven was educated at Parramatta High School and the University of Sydney (B.A., 1934; Dip.Ed., 1935; M.A., 1943). While teaching at Yanco Agricultural (1936-38), Manly Intermediate (1939-41) and Canterbury Boys' (1943) high schools, he took university courses in anthropology and studied for his M.A. in education. In 1944 he was appointed temporary lecturer in child welfare and in 1947 became a lecturer at Teachers' College, Sydney. On 31 December 1938 he had married a milliner Jean McDonald at the Presbyterian Church, Auburn.

Awarded Carnegie (1948-49) and Leon Research (1949) fellowships, Brown read at the Institute of Education, University of London (Ph.D., 1950). His thesis was a sociological study of a grammar school in a working-class area of London. Appointed senior lecturer in education at the University of Sydney in 1951, he had charge of a course on child growth and development. In 1955 he became director of the university's department of social work.

Brown moved to the New South Wales University of Technology in 1958 as professor of sociology and head of the school of humanities and social sciences. Following the recommendation of Sir Keith Murray in his report on Australian universities, the reconstituted (1959) University of New South Wales established a faculty of arts. Brown became dean in 1960 and developed Australia's first department of sociology. The teaching began with several service courses for scientists and engineers; as his department expanded, a systematic sequence of courses in the discipline was provided. Brown also initiated a diploma in social work as a precursor to the school of social work (established in 1968).

A skilled debater in his undergraduate days and a talented amateur actor, Brown was a member of the boards of the National Institute of Dramatic Art and of the Old Tote Theatre Company. He was an excellent impromptu speaker. His students found his lectures the more piquant because of his occasional absent-mindedness in unwittingly repeating them. With a strong, practical interest in social welfare, he chaired the Good Neighbour Council of New South Wales; a member of the Commonwealth government's Immigration Advisory Council, he was interested in the welfare of immigrants and in the sociology of the Australian family.

Brown published little: two articles in the Forum of Education in 1954-55 were pioneering reports on the relationship of intelligence, school performance and father's occupational group to the holding power of selective high schools in Sydney. His later writing touched on the immigration programme, feminism, social disadvantage, and the role of the humanities and social science in general education. Foundation president (1963) of the Sociological Association of Australia and New Zealand, he belonged to the Rotary Club of Sydney and enjoyed playing tennis and squash. He died of subarachnoid haemorrhage on 9 October 1965 at St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, and was cremated; his wife, daughter and son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • University of New South Wales, Alumni Papers, 1, no 3, Oct 1984, p 4
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 14 July 1956, 11 Oct 1965
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 11 Oct 1965
  • teachers' records, Department of Education (New South Wales) Archives, Sydney
  • Brown papers (University of Sydney Archives and University of New South Wales Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

W. F. Connell, 'Brown, Morven Sydney (1914–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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