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Joseph Brown

Birthdate: (52)
Birthplace: Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, United States
Death: December 03, 1785 (52)
Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of James Brown, II and Hope Tillinghast Brown
Husband of Elizabeth Brown
Father of Mary Gano
Brother of Nicholas Brown, Sr; Hon. John Brown, Founder of Brown University; Moses Brown; James Brown and Mary Brown

Managed by: Alice Zoe Marie Knapp
Last Updated:

About Joseph Brown

Joseph Brown, 1733-1785, was one if the five famous Brown brothers of 18th century Providence. He was a successful entrepreneur, a respected scientist and astronomer, as well as an accomplished architect whose buildings include the First Baptist Church, the Providence Market House, University Hall and the John Brown House.


Joseph Brown (December 3, 1733 – December 3, 1785) was an early American industrialist, architect, astronomer, and professor at Brown University.


Brown was one of the four surviving sons (known in Providence annals as the “Four Brothers”) of James Brown II (born in Providence, 22 March 1698; died there, 27 April 1739), a merchant, and Hope Power Brown. Like his father, Joseph Brown engaged in business, and in manufacturing, and acquired sufficient wealth to permit him to follow his natural taste for science. He was greatly interested in the science of electricity, and his knowledge of that subject was remarkable for the time. He left an electric machine of his own construction, an outstanding example of this sort of apparatus for that time.

He devoted considerable study to mechanics and was proficient in astronomy. His attention having been directed to the arrangements in course of preparation for the proper observation of the transit of Venus in 1769, he sent to England for suitable instruments, and subsequently an account of the observations made in Providence was published by Benjamin West, later professor of natural philosophy at Rhode Island College (now Brown University). Brown was a warm friend of the Rhode Island College, and was one of its trustees from 1769 until 1785. In 1770 he received the honorary degree of A.M. from the College, and from 1784 until his death held the chair of natural philosophy, giving his services to the institution without compensation.

Joseph Brown was a member of the First Baptist Church in America.


His brothers, all merchants of Rhode Island, were: Nicholas Brown, Sr., John Brown (a founder of Rhode Island College), and Moses Brown. He also had a sister, Mary.

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Joseph Brown's Timeline

December 3, 1733
Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, United States
July 30, 1760
Age 26
December 3, 1785
Age 52
Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, United States