Rep. George E. Brown Jr. (D-Calif.), 79, the oldest member of the House of Representatives, died July 16 after heart surgery at Bethesda Naval Medical Command.

Rep. Brown, serving his 18th term, was the senior Democrat on the House Science Committee. He represented California's 42nd District, which includes San Bernardino and other communities lying east of Los Angeles. He was first elected in 1962 after working 17 years for the City of Los Angeles.

He used his post on the Science Committee to support space exploration, both manned and unmanned.

President Clinton issued a statement saying Rep. Brown's support for science "was drawn from his deep belief that science and technology could help achieve a peaceful world and a just society."

"For almost 40 years, from his earliest days fighting racial inequality, George Brown challenged us to build a better world. Our nation has lost a good man and an irreplaceable voice for science and justice," Clinton said.

Rep. Brown was elected to Congress in 1962 and quickly became a foe of the war in Vietnam. In 1970, he gave up a safe seat in the House to run for the Senate, but was defeated in a primary by John Tunney. Two years later, he won a newly created seat and returned to the House.

In recent elections, Republicans made him a perennial target for defeat. They came close numerous times--Rep. Brown won with 51 percent of the vote in 1992, 1994 and 1996--but never were able to dislodge him.

A special election will fill his remaining 18 months in the current Congress. Republicans are expected to make a vigorous effort to capture the seat.

Rep. Brown was born in Holtville, Calif. He served in the Army during World War II and graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles.

He was mayor and a city councilman in Monterey Park and a member of the California State Assembly before his election to Congress.

Survivors include his second wife, Marta Macias Brown of San Bernardino; two children; and four stepchildren.

CAPTION: George E. Brown Jr. was first elected to Congress in 1962.