Lowell S. Brown

Lowell S. Brown (born 1934) is an American theoretical physicist, a retired Staff Scientist and Laboratory Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Professor Emeritus of physics at University of Washington. He was a student of Julian Schwinger at Harvard University and a recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. Brown authored a book on Quantum Field Theory that has received over 5,000 citations,[1] and he has authored or co-authored over 150 articles that have accumulated over 11,000 citations.[2]

Lowell S. Brown
ResidenceUnited States
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
Harvard University
AwardsGuggenheim Foundation Fellow
NSF Senior Postdoctoral Fellow
NSF Postdoctoral Fellow
NSF Predoctoral Fellow
Scientific career
FieldsQuantum field theory
InstitutionsYale University
University of Washington
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Doctoral advisorJulian Schwinger

Education and career

Lowell S. Brown earned his A.B. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1956 and his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University in 1961, with a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship, studying quantum field theory under Julian Schwinger.[3]

After National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships at Istituto di Fisica Dell'Universita in Rome and at Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, Brown joined Yale University as an Associate Professor through 1968. For most of his career, Brown served as a Professor at the University of Washington (1969-2001). Then, he was a Staff Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico (2001-2014). He is now a Guest Scientist at Los Alamos.

Brown again visited Imperial College in 1971-1972, continuing his research with a National Science Foundation Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship. He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1979[4] and undertook his research at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva, Switzerland, and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.

Scientific contributions

Most of Brown's work has involved quantum field theory applied to elementary particle physics, astrophysics, general relativity, plasma physics, atomic physics, and nuclear physics.

His book "Quantum Field Theory" (1994) has been well received. Pierre Ramond's review in Science states that Brown's book is "marked by its astute choice of topics as well as by the clarity with which they are expounded, it is akin to a toolbox for students of modern quantum field theory... a very thorough and rare treatment…a very interesting and original textbook. I strongly recommend this book to whoever aspires to become either a particle or a condensed matter physicist."[5]

Brown's work on the interaction of intense laser beams with electrons (Brown & Kibble 1964) is still cited forty or so years later.

In astrophysics and general relativity, his work on the stress-energy tensor of various fields coupled to an arbitrary classical gravitational field (1977) is noteworthy: it uses the method of dimensional continuation and proper time representations, and with these methods, he computed the unique gravitational anomaly for scalar fields and the anomaly for vector fields (Brown & Cassidy 1977).

Brown and collaborators computed the energy-energy correlation in electron-positron annihilation (Basham et al. 1978), which provides one method of measuring the strong interaction QCD coupling constant.

Brown was the first to compute the stress-energy tensor between conducting planes (Brown & Maclay 1969). The stress tensor evaluated on a plane yields the Casimir force.

He was the first to exhibit the classical limit of the hydrogen atom (1973).[6] He constructed large-quantum-number wave packets that slowly spread while moving in circular orbits.

At the University of Washington, Hans Dehmelt captured single charged particles in very stable orbits in a Penning trap. This arrangement, called geonium, enabled measurement of the magnetic moment of the electron with exquisite precision for which Dehmelt won the Nobel Prize. Brown became fascinated with this new experimental procedure and with coworkers wrote many papers investigating the detailed workings of geonium. His work culminated in a long review article (Brown & Gabrielse 1986) that has become a handbook for other experimenters who use a Penning trap.

Brown also investigated plasma effects on nuclear fusion (Brown & Sawyer 1997), wrote a paper applying field theory to plasma physics (Brown & Yaffe 2001), obtained the non-leading corrections in plasma stopping power (Brown et al. 2005), and provided an effective field description for deuterium-tritium fusion (Brown & Hale 2014).



  • Brown, Lowell S. (1994). Quantum Field Theory. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-46946-3.

Cited articles

Professional society activities

Brown served on many committees of the American Physical Society and was the first academic Editor of Physical Review D. During his tenure (1987-1995), he was instrumental in incorporating author-prepared electronic manuscripts into the journal’s editorial and publishing process, and he conceived and promoted an early version of the electronic status inquiry system for authors.[7]

Additional activities:

  • Los Alamos National Laboratory: Consultant (1974-2001); Theoretical Division External Advisory Committee, Member (1990-1993)
  • U.S. D.O.E. Technical Assessment Committee on University Programs, Chairman, Theoretical Physics Panel (1982-1983)
  • Physics Survey of National Research Council, Member, Elementary Particle Physics Panel (1983-1985)
  • Aspen Center for Physics: Member, Board of Trustees (1982-1988); Member, Advisory Board (1988-1990); General Member (1990-present)
  • Theoretical Advanced Study Institute in Elementary Particle Physics, Member, Scientific Advisory Board (1984-1989)
  • Comments on Nuclear and Particle Physics, Correspondent (1984-1992)

Honors and awards


  1. "Microsoft Academic - Quantum Field Theory, Lowell S. Brown". Retrieved 2018-03-31.
  2. "Google Scholar - Lowell S. Brown". Retrieved 2014-07-27.
  3. "Mathematics Genealogy Project – Lowell S. Brown". North Dakota State University. Retrieved 2014-07-27.
  4. "John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships – Lowell S. Brown". Retrieved 2014-07-27.
  5. Ramond, Pierre (June 25, 1993). "Book Review - Quantum Field Theory, by Lowell S. Brown". Science. 260 (5116): 1986. doi:10.1126/science.260.5116.1986. PMID 17836730.
  6. See, for example, Footnote 8 in the paper by Nauenberg, Michael (July 15, 1989). "Quantum wave packets on Kepler elliptic orbits". Physical Review A. 40 (2): 1133–1136. Bibcode:1989PhRvA..40.1133N. doi:10.1103/physreva.40.1133. PMID 9902240.
  7. "Introduction To The APS E-Print Workshop". APS. Retrieved 2014-07-27.
  8. "APS Fellow Archive from 1921 to the present". APS. Retrieved 2018-02-18.
  9. "Los Alamos National Laboratory - Laboratory Fellows from 1981 to the present". LANL. Retrieved 2014-07-27.
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