Frank Brown

Curriculum Vitae

Frank Brown portrait
  • Distinguished Professor, Geology & Geophysics



  • BA, Geology, University of California, Berkeley
  • PhD, Geology, University of California, Berkeley

Honors & Awards

  • Rip Rapp Archaeological Geology Award n 1983, the division estabished the "Archaeological Geology Division Award" for outstanding contributions to the interdisciplinary field of archaeological geology. Geological Society of America, 11/2015
  • Rosenblatt Prize. University of Utah, 05/2001
  • Outstanding Teaching Award. Department of Geology and Geophysics, 05/1999
  • Award for Outstanding Research . Center for Research into the Anthropological Foundations of Technology, 04/1999
  • Distinguished Research Award. University of Utah, 06/1986
  • Outstanding Teaching Award. Department of Geology & Geophysics, 06/1986
  • Outstanding Teaching Award. Department of Geology & Geophysics, 06/1984
  • Faculty Research Award. Department of Geology & Geophysics, 06/1983
  • Outstanding Teaching Award. Department of Geology and Geophysics, 06/1981
  • Outstanding Teaching Award. College of Mines and Mineral Industries, 06/1981


I was born to Francis E. Brown and Vivien Clarice (Jameson) Brown, who lived on a small property in Redwood Valley, California, with about 20 acres of vineyard, and smaller plantings of walnuts, apples, and a variety of other fruit trees, a woodlot, grazing space for a couple of cows (normally one milk cow & one steer), and a large vegetable garden.  I attended Redwood Valley Elementary School for the first eight years of my education, and then attended Ukiah High School, about 10 miles away.  My undergraduate work was completed at the University of California, Berkeley in 1965, and my graduate work at the same institution in 1971.

In 1973 I married Theresa A. Bauhs, and together we had two marvelous children, Erica J. and Elise B.  We divorced in 1994.

    I gained experience in geomorphology and glacial processes working with Dr. R. J. Janda of the U.S.G.S. in the San Joaquin drainage basin in the summer of 1964.  Thereafter, I worked as an assistant for Dr. G. Curtis, at the K/Ar laboratory at the Univ. of Calif., Berkeley where I learned mineral separation, argon extraction techniques, and mass spectrometry.  From 1966 to 1971, I was a teaching assistant for several courses at the University of California, Berkeley, and also the research assistant in charge of maintaining the Electron Microprobe.  In addition I learned stream gauging techniques and sediment sampling techniques under the tutelage of Edward J. Helley (USGS, Menlo Park), following storms on the Chowchilla River, CA.

    In 1966, I began work in southern Ethiopia with the Omo Research Expedition.  This work continued during 1967-1969, and 1971-1974.  The work ceased when the government of Ethiopia fell in 1974.  Two months were spent working on ultrapotassic lavas in the Toro-Ankole and Kichwamba volcanic fields of Uganda in 1968 and 1969.  Dr. R. T. Shuey and I determined the paleomagnetic polarity stratigraphy of the Shungura and Usno Formations in 1972 and 1973.  A small amount of time during 1972 and 1973 was spent in collecting paleomagnetic samples from Olorgesailie and Kariandusi in Kenya, and from Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, the latter for Dr. R. L. Hay.  In 1977 and again in 1978, worked at Sahabi, Libya.  With J. Desmond Clark, I undertook stratigraphic work at Nihewan, PRC in 1990, and continued that work in 1991 and 1992.

    In 1980, I began work at Koobi Fora, and by 1982 had solved the major problems there by using chemically analyzed tuffs as lithostratigraphic markers; most of the remaining problems had been dealt with by 1984.  During this period, work commenced on the Nachukui Formation.  In 1985 and in 1986, I collected tephra from the Shungura Formation for correlation with the Koobi Fora and Nachukui Formations along with Bereket Haileab, collected paleosol carbonates there in 2004 with Thure Cerling and Naomi Levin, and resampled the formation for paleomagnetic work with Tesfaye Kidane in 2006 and 2008.  Since 1982 I have worked with Dr. Ian McDougall, of the Australian National University, on the geochronology of this region.  The stratigraphy and geochronology of Miocene rocks in the Lothidok Range was begun in Canberra in 1987.  In 1986, I visited the diatomite quarries at Hazen, Nevada, and was astonished at the superb preservation of Miocene tephra in the Great Basin.  This sparked my interest in applying tephrostratigraphic techniques that have proved so fruitful in East Africa to the Basin and Range.  Since that time tephra from many sections in the Basin and Range have been analyzed, and correlations made over most of the western coterminous US from 16 to 6 Ma ago (see references).  Field work in Kenya during the summers of 1989-90, followed by laboratory work on tephra collected at that time resulted in location of an additional 200 sq. km of the Koobi Fora Formation near Loiyangalani separated from the main exposures by about 90 km.  I worked on these exposures with Patrick Gathogo in 2004-2005.  Further stratigraphic work in the 1990s has led to closer placement of hominid fossils in the Nachukui Formation, and to better understanding of the paleogeography of the region.  A brief visit to the Kibish Formation in 1999 resulted in bounding dates of 0.1–0.2 Ma for the hominid skulls recovered there in 1967.  Additional work there has led to better understanding of the relation between deposition in the area and organic layers (sapropels) in the Mediterranean Sea, both of which are dependent on increased rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands.  Since then, work has proceeded at many scattered localities in the Turkana Basin including Ileret, Loiyangalani, Lomekwi, Kokiselei, South Turkwel, the Kerio Valley, etc.  Much of this work has been done in concert with young African scholars.

    Support of African students has always been important to me.  In 1998 I met a young geologist, Patrick Gathogo who was volunteering for the National Museums of Kenya, and working with Dr. Meave Leakey west of Lake Turkana.  He was capable enough that I arranged for him to continue his studies at the University of Utah, where he since completed his B.S. and M.S. degrees, and will soon complete his doctorate.  In addition, I encouraged and supported Dr. Frederick Kyalo Manthi (head of Palaeontology, National Museums of Kenya) with his education beginning in 1986, have had two other Kenyan students complete their M.S. degrees here—Robert Kamau, and Fulbert Namwamba.  Dr. Bereket Haileab (now chair of Geology at Carleton College, MN), an Ethiopian, completed his M.S. and doctoral degrees here at Utah.  Last year I hosted Dr. Francis Kirera on postdoctoral work here, and currently we have Dr. Samuel Andanje from Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) working on the isotopes of a variety of animals from the national parks with an eye to determining physiological stress levels and provenance of animal tissues.  Dr. Fredrick Manthi (National Museums of Kenya) is also here working on isotopes of fossil and modern mammalian teeth from various sites.

    I began my career at the University as an Assistant Professor in 1971, was promoted to Associate Professor in 1976, and to Professor in 1980.  I have served as chair of most of the standing departmental committees, and on several standing committees of the college, and as a member of the Academic Senate.  I became Chair of the department in 1988, and Dean of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences in 1991, where I have attempted to provide endowed funds for academic support of various sorts.  A major accomplishment was raising funds for and overseeing construction of the Frederick Albert Sutton Building, the new home of the Department of Geology & Geophysics.


  • L.S.B. Leakey Foundation (Leakey Foundation), Scientific Executive Committee, 06/1993 - present
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (LACM), Research Associate, Earth Sciences, 06/1989 - present
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science , Member, 09/1972 - 02/2011


  • Amharic, basic.
  • English, fluent.
  • German, functional.
  • Swahili (individual language), fluent.
  • Swahili (macrolanguage), fluent.

Geographical Regions of Interest

  • Africa
  • Americas
  • Antarctica
  • Argentina
  • Asia
  • Eastern Africa
  • Ethiopia
  • Europe
  • Kenya
  • Oceania
  • South America
  • Uganda
  • United Republic of Tanzania