Professor John Brown (Astronomer), b. 1947

© Lucinda Douglas-Menzies

Lucinda Douglas-Menzies

Professor John Brown (Astronomer), b. 1947

29 April 2008

Sarah Jeffcott, Librarian, Scottish National Portrait Gallery This Portrait of the Month is selected by Sarah Jeffcott, Librarian, Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Professor John Brown (born 1947) is Regius Professor of Astronomy at the University of Glasgow and the 10th Astronomer Royal for Scotland. His enthusiasm for astronomy began as a child when he was inspired by the books of Patrick Moore and by the encouragement of family and friends. His research and teaching interests include solar and stellar plasmas and the exploration of planetary systems, and he promotes interest in science through his work in astronomy outreach programmes.

Brown's thoughtful portrait by Lucinda Douglas-Menzies is one of a set of photographs, ‘Portraits of Astronomers', taken by the artist to mark 2009 as the International Year of the Astronomer, which commemorates four hundred years since Galileo first looked at the sky through a telescope.

Douglas-Menzies began her career as a photographer's assistant and later as an auction house catalogue photographer, before setting up her own studio in 1986. Her approach to capturing her sitters' likenesses results in insightful portrayals, often linking the subject with his or her surroundings. Here, Brown is photographed in the University of Glasgow's Department of Physics and Astronomy - in the background of the portrait is an image of a lunar landscape and distant view of earth, which adds a slightly surreal element to the otherwise pensive mood of the portrait.

The constellations of the zodiac can be seen in ceiling of the Portrait Gallery's Great Hall and have fascinated and inspired generations of visitors. As part of the Portrait of the Nation campaign, you are invited to place your name, or that of a loved one, in the Gallery of Stars for another generation.  With your donation you can choose a star in a panel or constellation. You will receive a limited edition certificate showing the position of your star and your name will be recorded in the Portrait Gallery when it re-opens in 2011. Find information about the campaign at