Alan Brown Had a Global Reputation as a Forester and Scientist

Awarded inaugural Queen’s Award for Forestry.

Wed 12 Jul 23


Accomplished forester and scientist Alan Gordon Brown passed away on May 19, aged 92.

He gained an international reputation after a highly successful career with CSIRO.

Alan was born in 1931 to a farming family at Hilston in western NSW. The family moved to Canberra, where he had his early education.

He earned a Commonwealth Forestry Scholarship at Sydney University (1948-1949) and attended the Australian Forestry School in Yarralumla in 1950-51.

After a year working with the NSW Forestry Commission in the southern highlands, he joined the Forestry and Timber Bureau in 1953.

Until 1960 he worked on silvicultural research and tree breeding, including responsibility for the arboreta in the ACT.

Alan improved the records of the arboreta by producing accurate maps and associated seed origin data.

He lectured in silviculture and wood science at the Australian Forestry School during 1961-66 before returning to research at the newly-formed Forest Research Institute within the Forestry and Timber Bureau.

He was heavily involved in breeding Pinus radiata and other closed-cone pines with the late Jack Fielding, including world-leading progeny testing and clonal reproduction.

These studies contributed to his Master of Science degree.

Alan’s subsequent appointments included deputy chief of the CSIRO Division of Forestry and Forest Products 1988-90 and Head of the Division of Forestry 1991-92.

After retiring in 1996, Alan remained with CSIRO as an honorary research fellow.

He was awarded the Order of Australia (1998) and the Institute of Foresters’ NW Jolly Medal (1986).

He was a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and Engineering and the Institute of Foresters.

The late Alan Brown was an internationally recognised forester.

Internationally, Alan was involved in several of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research’s collaborative forestry research projects in Africa and China.

The International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) awarded him the Distinguished Service Award.

He was on the boards of both IUFRO (1987-90) and the Centre for International Forestry Research (1992-97).

An accomplished editor, Alan edited the Australian Forestry Journal for many years.

He authored several books and many scientific papers and was largely responsible for the revised edition of the guide to Westbourne Woods.

His final publication was Woods Wiki in 2018.

Those of us fortunate enough to have had Alan as a friend and colleague appreciated the depth of his forestry knowledge and the quiet, competent and effective way he carried out his duties.

Many in the forestry world have been enriched by their association with him and saddened by his passing.

• This article originally appeared in FACTT News No. 6, June 2023.


  • John Turnbull

    John Turnbull has a forestry degree from University of Wales; PhD (Forest Genetics) from the Australian National University and 44 years of experience in forestry and forest research internationally. He was senior principal research scientist at CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products and Forestry Program Coordinator (Asia/Africa) at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. He retired as chief scientist of the Centre for International Forestry Research in Indonesia in 1999 and returned to CSIRO as an honorary research fellow until 2003. A recipient of the inaugural Queen’s Award for Forestry in 1988 recognised his contributions to forestry across the commonwealth.


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