International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Dr Stanley George Browne

    Status Medical Missionary
    Country United Kingdom


    Stanley George Browne (1907-1986) was a British leprologist and medical missionary.

    Browne was born in London in 1907. He was awarded two scholarships, which covered his education in medicine and theology at Kings College, London. He became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1934, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons the following year. After completing an additional qualification in tropical medicine, he was recruited by the Baptist Missionary Society to work as a medical missionary in what was then the Belgian Congo.

    Arriving in Kinshasa (then Leopoldville) in 1936, Browne received additional training in tropical medicine and met Drs Clement Chesterman and Raymond Holmes, who would be his colleagues. Together, they travelled to the Yakusu missionary station, which oversaw health care for a 10,000 square mile area. Browne would work there until 1958. He was reportedly called 'Bonganga', or White Doctor, by the locals.

    At Yakusu, Browne initially worked to combat trypanosomiasis and onchocerciasis. He made a major breakthrough in onchocerciasis when he discovered that the larvae of the fly Simulium damsonum, attached to the carapace of freshwater crabs, were a major factor in transmission of this disease. He also worked as principal of the School for Medical Auxiliaries at Yakusu, which became known for its effective training of African medical auxiliaries. On his first furlough back in England in 1939, he met Marion (Mali) Williamson, the daughter of two Baptist missionaries. They soon became engaged, and she joined him in the Congo in 1940. Their three sons were all born in Yakusu.

    Browne's interest in leprosy began in 1939, when his disease surveys revealed very high rates of leprosy in some areas near Yakusu. Circa 1940, a leprosarium was opened at Yalisombo near Yakusu. In 1943, 353 people were being treated for leprosy at the settlement, and government support of Yalisombo was discussed. Early treatment was by chaulmoogra oil, and results were poor. In 1950, the American Leprosy Mission supplied Browne with a consignment of the new drug dapsone, which was more successful.

    Browne's success at Yalisombo became internationally known, and the eminent leprologist Robert Cochrane, while visiting the Congo, encouraged Browne to leave behind his interest in general tropical medicine and focus entirely on leprosy studies.

    Browne resigned from the Baptist Missionary Society while on leave in London in 1958. He was then invited by the Nigerian government to succeed Frank Davey as senior leprologist of the Leprosy Research Unit at Uzuakoli in Eastern Nigeria. At the Unit he continue to trial new drugs, including B663 (later known as clofazimine). He attended the International Congress on Leprosy in Rio de Janeiro in 1963, where he chaired the working group on the treatment of leprosy. He also acted as an advisor for the All Africa Leprosy Training and Rehabilitation Centre. He was known as 'Mr. Leprosy' in the West African communities where he worked. In 1963 Browne produced a "Report of a Study Tour of Leprosy Research Centres in India and the East". He mentions visiting Buluba Leprosarium (30 miles from Jinja), where there were 23,000 registered leprosy cases.

    His impact on leprosy was a major one. His many official roles in leprosy committees and organisations afforded him a platform to advocate for scientific research on leprosy and for high standards of patient care. His bibliography includes over 500 scientific publications, mainly on leprosy, as well as many books and pamphlets. He died at home on World Leprosy Day, 29 January 1986, survived by his wife, Mali, and their three sons, Derek, Alastair, and Christopher. Mali Browne also died on World Leprosy Day in 2006.

    Browne received numerous awards for his work, including the OBE in 1965, CMG in 1976, and Belgium's highest civilian honour, Commander of the Ordre of Leopold, in 1980. He also held a number of official posts, including Secretary of the International Leprosy Association (1966–1984); Director of the Leprosy Study Centre in London (1966-1980); President of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (1977-1979); and President of the Baptist Union (1980-1981). He served on committees including the WHO Expert Committee on Leprosy (1976) and the ILEP Medical Commission (1971-1974).


    Browne, Derek. ‘Centenary Year of Dr Stanley Browne’. Leprosy Mailing List Blog. 23 May 2008. Online.

    Gibson, Mary E. “Browne, Stanley George (1907–1986).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by HCG Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online (accessed September 13, 2006).

    Lechat, M.F., and R. H. Thangaraj. 'Stanley George Browne,C.M.G., O.B.E., M.D.,F.R.C.P., F.R.C.S., D.T.M., F.K.C. 1907-1986' [obituary]. International Journal of Leprosy. Volume 54 , Number 2 Page: 306–7


    Please contact us via the website for a list of publications.


    Acworth Leprosy Hospital (Matoonga)   Stanley Browne visited Acworth in 1963
    Yalisombo Leper Colony   Stanley Browne was with the BMS at Yakusa and Yalisombo in the 1930s. Browne's notebooks from his days in the Belgian Congo are held by the Wellcome Library in London. These include notebooks on flexion of digits, leprosy and yaws, tuberculoid leprosy in reaction, images of the destruction of the nose, hyperpigmentation - DDS, and lepromin reaction.
    Uzuakoli   Dr Browne was doctor at Uzuakoli 1959-1965. (Information supplied by LEPRA)
    TLM International  
    Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine   Records of Baptist Mission Hospital, Yakusu, Belgian Congo (Zaire), 1938-58, and of his research into leprosy, 1960s-80s
    Ryan, Prof Terence - Personal Collection  
    The National Archives (United Kingdom)  
    London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Archives   manuscripts and publications on leprosy. Dates: 1960s

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