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National Geographic Writer Andrew H. Brown, 92, Dies

By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 10, 2005; Page B08

Andrew H. Brown, 92, a retired National Geographic writer, editor and photographer who traveled the far corners of the world from the 1930s until the 1990s reveling in his craft, died of colon cancer Feb. 4 at Montgomery Hospice in Rockville. He lived in Bethesda.

His many adventures included chronicling Adm. Richard E. Byrd's final expedition to Antarctica in 1956 and editing the works of noted scientists Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey as they wrote about their experiences with chimpanzees and mountain gorillas.


Andrew H. Brown, shown in August, chronicled Adm. Richard E. Byrd's last Antarctic expedition and edited Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. (Family Photo)

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Mr. Brown wrote 20 articles under his own byline, most illustrated with his own photographs. He relished the dual roles of writer and photographer that many staff members handled in the magazine's early years.

Armed with camera, he traveled 573 miles by snowmobile in the Oregon Cascades to chronicle weather research on snow packs to predict the next summer's potential river flows. In 1950, Mr. Brown paddled 578 miles of remote wilderness rivers in Labrador, Newfoundland, to become one of the few to photograph Labrador's Grand Falls of the Hamilton River, now the Churchill River; at the time, it was North America's second-largest waterfall. Another time, he journeyed six months by ship and icebreaker to explore Antarctica with Byrd.

Mr. Brown savored northern climes, adventure and brook trout. In his articles about life in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Ontario, Quebec, Norway, Sweden and Greenland, he captured the faces of life and work in city and forest, from simple country living to the technological transformation from wilderness to modern industrial society.

His greatest skill, said his son, rested in a quiet sense of humor and an inquisitive mind that encouraged strangers to talk candidly of their lives and how they made a living.

Mr. Brown edited more than 100 articles submitted to the magazine by outside writers. He also was on National Geographic's research and exploration committee and helped identify scientists to tell their stories.

Goodall and Fossey were among the experts who trusted his editing and commitment to clear explanation. Mr. Brown edited Goodall's article "New Discoveries Among Africa's Chimpanzees" (1965) and Fossey's "More Years With Mountain Gorillas" (1971)

Robert Poole, the magazine's former executive editor and a fishing buddy of Mr. Brown's, said that as an editor, Mr. Brown was involved behind the scenes in one of the Geographic's most famous expeditions, the 1963 mission that put Americans on top of Mount Everest.

"One reason it happened was that Andy had communication with people sponsoring it," Poole said. "Andy pushed for National Geographic involvement. That meant the magazine had not one, but three stories on it."

The expedition resulted in National Geographic's first television documentary. "They had a movie camera on the mountain," said Poole of the 1965 broadcast. "Andy had the wit to see this was good story."

Andrew Hutton Brown was born in New York and graduated from Harvard College in 1934. His career began on the editorial staff of the National Geographic in 1936. Military service during World War II, including a stint with the U.S. Army Weather Service, interrupted his work.

At National Geographic, he worked his way from bulletin writer to writer-editor, joining the masthead on the editorial staff in 1950. In 1956, he was promoted to senior editorial staff, and in 1966 was promoted again to assistant editor. He retired in 1977, but worked part time until 1990.

He and close friends referred to their retirement cubicles at the National Geographic as the "Hall of Fossils, home of proper English and where 'I' is still the best way to begin an action story!"

In later life, Mr. Brown developed an active set of friends with whom he danced, played bridge, dined and traveled.

Survivors include two children, Patricia Church Brown of Bethesda and Andrew Gordon Brown of Silver Spring; and two granddaughters.


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