Theodore “Ted” Brown

The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology owes its successful start to the guidance and foresight of Theodore “Ted” Brown. In 1983, Brown (along with Karl Hess and William Greenough) formulated and wrote a proposal to the University of Illinois for an interdisciplinary research institute, a novel idea in academia.

University of Illinois alumnus Arnold O. Beckman and his wife, Mabel, generously funded the proposal with a donation of $40 million, supplemented by $10 million from the State of Illinois, bringing Brown’s vision to life. Brown was keenly interested in how the University of Illinois could leverage the strength of its science and engineering programs by incorporating other disciplines into a new structure that would foster growth and development of innovative research across academic boundaries.

Theodore "Ted" Brown

Ted Brown at the ‘topping out’ ceremony for the Beckman Institute

Construction began on the Beckman Institute in fall 1986, and Brown was appointed the founding director in 1987. Brown guided the construction and was instrumental in the development of the initial research themes.

Brown was a scholar, author, administrator, and teacher. After earning his PhD from Michigan State University in 1954, Brown joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois in 1956. He earned numerous awards and served in other important roles on the University of Illinois campus, including vice chancellor for research and dean of the Graduate College (1980-1986) and interim vice chancellor for academic affairs (1992-1993) before retiring in 1993.


(From Left to right) Professors Herbert S. Gutowsky, Douglass E. Applequist, Herbert E. Laitinen and Theodore L. Brown discussing radio frequency spectroscopy.

His research interests include inorganic chemistry and organometallic chemistry, with an emphasis on the kinetics and mechanism of reactions. However, these interests shifted to the cognitive, philosophical, and social aspects of scientific research, which reflect the Beckman Institute’s values. Brown has also written several books, including Making Truth: Metaphor in Science (2003) and Imperfect Oracle: The Authority and Moral Authority of Science in Society (2009). He has co-authored the general chemistry text Chemistry: The Central Science, which has numerous editions since its original publication in 1977.

In recognition of Brown’s commitment to the excellence of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, a fellowship and lecture series were named in honor of Brown and Arnold O. Beckman.

– Beckman Institute. Brown’s idea come to fruition.



Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

Beckman Institute “Topping Out” (3). (1987, Aug 13). Building Photographs, 1868-2000. Record Series 24/5/14, Box Beckman Institute. University of Illinois Archives.

Brown, T.L. (2009). Building Bridges: the Origins of the Beckman Institute at Illinois. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Discussion of Radio Spectroscopy. (1967, May). Faculty and staff Press Release File. Record Series 39/1/11, Box GU, Folder Gutowsky, Herbert S. University of Illinois Archives.

University of Illinois.

Contributors: Maeve Reilly