Dwight Brown

1937 - 2020

Dwight Brown, retired professor of geography and former geography department chair at the University of Minnesota, died on June 19, 2020 of natural causes. He was 83.

Brown’s expertise during his career of more than fifty years spanned geographic information and analysis, physical geography, and cartography, with specific interest and expertise in biogeography, environmental systems, grasslands, global change, resource use, and landscape evolution. He initiated the first GIS course at UM.

For most of his career, Brown focused on the biogeography of the Midcontinent Plains. He was also a farmer, as well as director of the Water Resources Research Center at UM, and an associate fellow of the Center for Great Plains Study at the University of Nebraska.. His publications and accomplishments include the 1996 AAG publication, Living in the Biosphere: Production, Pattern, Population and Diversity;  the 2003 publication and CD Biogeography of the Global Garden; and Embedded Scales in Biogeography (Blackwell Press, 2004).

As reported in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Brown was an engaging and imaginative instructor, who encouraged questions from his students and never stopped learning, himself. “He loved learning and had a sense of curiosity and it was the driving factor in his career,” said his daughter Cindy Brown Polson.

“He always questioned and probed for deeper understanding,” recalled his colleague Richard Skaggs. “Dwight believed strongly in the value and importance of education and inspired the same qualities in his children and his many students.”

Brown was born to Dallas and Verna Brown on Aug. 15, 1936, in Aledo, Ill. He grew up in Galva, Ill. He earned his bachelor’s degree in geography from Western Illinois University and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in geography from the University of Kansas. In addition to his daughter Cindy, Brown is survived by daughter Lori Casey, son Kyle, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife of 61 years, Helen Brown, who died in 2018.