National Space Society Governor George E. Brown, Jr. Biography

george brown biography portrait

George E. Brown, Jr.


Former Member of the National Space Society Board of Governors

U.S. Representative Brown was Chairman of the House Science Committee during the 102nd and 103rd Congresses and was probably best known in Congress for his work on science and technology issues. He was a recognized leader in forming the institutional framework for science and technology in the Federal Government.

In the mid-1960s, and again in the 1980s, he led an effort to restructure and strengthen the National Science Foundation, moving the agency into much more active roles in engineering, science education, and the development of advanced technologies. He developed legislation shaping the permanent science advisory mechanism in the Executive Office of the President, which was established in 1976 as the Office of Science and Technology Policy. As an energetic proponent of environmental preservation and of science and technology in the service of society, Brown championed the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Technology Assessment in the early 1970s.

Brown was known as an advocate of strategic planning and Congressional foresight. Ahead of the mainstream agenda, he recognized early on the environmental hazards of burning fossil fuels, the destructive effect of freons on the ozone layer, the importance of keeping space development under civilian control, and the necessity of monitoring global climate change. Brown also helped direct the Congress toward initiatives for energy and resource conservation, sustainable agriculture, national information systems, advanced technology development, and the integration of technology in education.

Throughout his career, Brown enthusiastically supported both manned and unmanned space exploration and was the primary sponsor of the Space Settlement Act of 1988. He also developed plans to improve U.S. manufacturing capability, maintain the Landsat remote-sensing system, and restructure the national weapons laboratories in a peacetime economy.

Late in his career, he was active in promoting international scientific cooperation, authoring legislation establishing joint research programs between U.S. researchers and their counterparts in Mexico and Russia.

Brown also had a long and rich history on non-science issues spanning many important events and eras of modern American political life. In Congress, Brown fought for passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Visitors to his office often remarked on the historic photo hanging on his wall showing Brown at the signing of that act by President Johnson — also in the room were Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy and Rosa Parks. He was also one of the first outspoken critics of the Vietnam War. He voted against every defense spending bill during the Vietnam era.

Congressman George E. Brown, Jr. passed on July 15, 1999, in his 18th term in the House, where he served as the Ranking Democratic Member on the House Science Committee and a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee. At the time he was the oldest current House member and the longest serving member of the House or Senate in the history of his home state of California.