Brown, William Launcelot (1873–1942)

By: Chester R. Burns

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

William Launcelot Brown, surgeon, was born in Coffeyville, Kansas, on September 23, 1873, the son of W. V. and Sarah Brown. He received his early education in pub lic schools in Missouri and Iowa and was granted a medical degree by Rush Medical College (Chicago) in 1896. After two years of postgraduate training at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, he established a practice in Unionville, Missouri. In search of a drier climate because of impaired health, Brown moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1900. He and his brother, Dr. C. P. Brown, were employed as surgeons by the Phelps-Dodge Corporation, which managed the Copper Queen Mining Company in Bisbee, Arizona. After the corporation built a railroad between Bisbee and El Paso, Texas, the two brothers became railway surgeons and moved to El Paso, in September 1902. Brown served as chief railway surgeon until the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad was bought by the Southern Pacific. He then became consulting surgeon of the western division of the Southern Pacific, a post he retained until his death.

During his years as railway surgeon, Brown specialized in orthopedic injuries and became internationally recognized for his achievements in that specialty. He was one of a handful of surgeons west of the Mississippi River invited to present papers at the North American Congress of Surgery held in Toronto, Ontario, in 1931. He contributed more than thirty publications to the literature of surgery. He was the founder of the El Paso County Medical Society Bulletin and one of the founders of Southwestern Medicine. Brown was a member of the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association in 1911 and chairman of the section on surgery of the Texas Medical Association in 1920. In 1934 he was named honorary life president of the Southwest Medical Association. He was a fellow of the Western Surgical Association, the American College of Surgeons, and the American Medical Association. He served for many years as a member of the board of directors of the Hotel Dieu Sisters Hospital in El Paso, and was a founder of the Associated Charities of El Paso (later named the Family Welfare Association) and of the first junior college in El Paso, which later became the College of Mines and then the University of Texas at El Paso. Brown married Katherine Murphy on June 2, 1906, and they had a daughter. He was a Presbyterian but had been converted to Catholicism by the time of his death in El Paso on December 28, 1942.

El Paso Times, December 29, 1942. Texas State Journal of Medicine, March 1943.
  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Orthopedic and Osteopathic Surgeons

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Chester R. Burns, “Brown, William Launcelot,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994

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