Frederick Brown ’59

Frederick Martin Brown State College – Dr. Frederick Martin Brown, 85, passed away from cancer on April 30, 2023 at Juniper Village in State College, PA.

Frederick, born on November 16, 1937, was the son of Luella (Baumgartner) Brown and Alexander Brown (LeBrun). Luella was the daughter of immigrant German-Swiss dairy farmers who immigrated to the American-Swiss colony in New Glarus, Wisconsin in the late 1890s. Alexander was the son of a French-Canadian lumberjack from the high Adirondack peaks, NY, whose ancestors immigrated from original farming and fur-trading settlements in Acadia (now Nova Scotia) in the early 1600s. Frederick was born and raised with his two sisters in the historic pre-revolutionary village of Mohawk, NY, living just yards from the old Erie Canal bed and towpath. He graduated from Mohawk High School in 1955, and then earned an AB from Hope College, Holland, MI in 1959, an MS from Syracuse University in 1966, and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 1971. Between 1959 and 1966 he worked as a medical technician at the VA Hospital and Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, and spent a year studying in the medical school. He also was Research Assistant to Robert O. Becker, MD, Nobel prize nominee in medicine with whom he published in the journal Science a groundbreaking paper entitled, “Photovoltaic Effects in Human Bone,” enhancing understanding of the electrical properties of the human body.

Interested in the rhythms of life, Frederick’s doctoral research focused on the then-new study of “chronobiology,” the study of the biological rhythms that underlie physiology, behavior and cognition, with his doctoral research establishing the universal circadian rhythm as genetically endowed rather than an environmentally conditioned rhythm. His subsequent research demonstrated that pregnancy lengths in most temporal-latitude and above mammals is a multiple of the 30-day full-moon lunar-cycle influence. He then developed the world-wide used BALM (Basic Language Morningness Scale) to measure a person’s chronotype, i.e., degree of morningness (lark), eveningness (owl), or intermediate (hummingbird) preferences and practice. Thereafter, his research focused on the circadian rhythm and the daily sleep-wake cycle, especially sleeping disruptions with aging.

Frederick was an Assistant Professor at the Centre College of KY, Danville, from 1969-1974, where he chaired at times both the newly developed Psychology and Psychobiology programs. He also was elected President of the Kentucky Academy of Science in 1965. He was hired to be Head of the Psychology Department at the former Kentucky State Hospital, Danville, from 1975-1976 at which time he obtained his license as a clinical psychologist.

Beginning at the Scranton Campus of the Pennsylvania State University at Winter term 1976-1977, Frederick was promoted to Associate Professor in 1980. In 1982 that he co-authored the seminal source-book, “Rhythmic aspects of behavior” with co-author, R. Curtis Graeber, COL NASA (RET), re-printed in 2020. In 1986 he was recruited to the Department of Psychology at the main campus of Penn State at University Park. There he served on many department, college, and University committees, including the Faculty Senate. Frederick was also a member of the auxiliary faculties of Science, Technology, and Society program and the faculty of the Schreyer’s Honors College.

Frederick’s teaching focused upon health and wellness since 1989. With collaboration from his Commonwealth Campus psychology colleagues, they developed a new course emphasizing illness prevention and health maintenance. In 2017 he published with his wife, Dr. Cynthia LaJambe, the book, “Positive Psychology and Wellbeing: Applications for Enhanced Living.”

Retired as Emeritus Associate Professor of Psychology at 80 in 2018, his life was active. He continued as keyboardist for The Second Winds local jazz group since 1998 until their disbandment in 2020 due to the Covid-19 epidemic, played in the Fred Brown Jazz Group in early 2021, and played local gigs until recently. He also was an avid organic gardening, and enjoyed sailing.

Frederick was preceded in death by his parents, Luella and Alexander Brown, and his brother-in-law Robert Albrecht. He is survived by his wife of 21 years, Cynthia LaJambe. She was his research collaborator, Scrabble partner, fellow gardener, and sailboat first mate. Also surviving are his son Andrew Brown (Sarita) of Santa Paula, CA, daughter Jennifer Brooks ’89 (Albert) of North Wales, PA from his previous marriage to Barbara Sanko Brown; sisters Patricia Albrecht of Harrisburg, PA, and MaryEllen Metwalli (Ahmed) of Fort Lauderdale, FL; five grandchildren and five great grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

The family would like to thank the many hospital staff and skilled nursing and support staff who provided compassionate care during Frederick’s illness.

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