This site intends to give wider scholarly access to the chief manuscript within one of the three primary families of Plato’s texts.  This is the Tenth Century manuscript commonly called Venetus T.   The bulk of it was crafted by a monk named Ephraim, in Constantinople near 954 A.D.

About the site owner

Malcolm in Oxford late Aug 2010
Professor Brown in front of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, September 2010.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, to medical missionary parents in 1932, Malcolm Brown was raised in Buffalo, New York.  He pursued graduate work at Columbia University, specialising in Ancient Greek Philosophy and earning the doctorate in 1966. His dissertation: “Plato’s Theory of Knowledge and its Mathematical Background.”   For the next 20 years, he taught college level courses in philosophy, mathematics, classics and history of science at various colleges, including St. John’s College Annapolis, Reed College, Barnard and  Brooklyn College.

His final 17 years of teaching and research were at Brooklyn College   In 1970 he had spent a year as a junior fellow of the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC, extending his research into the mathematicians at the Early Academy. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s Brown published and presented papers at conferences in the U.S. and England. These were about early Greek Philosophy, specifically the bordering fields of early Greek mathematics and the exact sciences.

In the late 1970s Brown got active in computer-assisted research in the humanities.   He worked from 1975 to produce a set of electronically stored concordances to the Greek texts of the early mathematicians. These included Euclid (his Elements) as well as much of early Greek mathematical and astronomical writing. The purpose here:  to identify via linguistic markers the various authors’ hands  which later were to be “absorbed” into Euclid’s own texts, using computer-assisted lexical analysis of Euclid’s texts.  The method of analysis built on the work of a handful of other scholars, and extended it in several directions.   By the end of the 1970s this was much expanded by the then-new project, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, at U of California, Irvine.

Brown’s  specialist articles on these mathematicians had slightly pre-dated the TLG project,  and the much of the later work by the Perseus project at Tufts.   Many of his texts he took steps to make available to scholars by the late 1970’s.   The works of Aristotle, Apollonius and Archimedes were soon to become available through the TLG, in the 1980s.  Brown’s had been the first machine-readable texts of this type to be added to early database collections at City University of New York, Dartmouth,  Warwick University, Rutgers and Oxford.  He also furnished copies of his results to the Classics Department at Princeton, and relayed his results to individual scholars at University of Chicago and Queen Mary College, London.   He worked to improve the Greek fonts in printed computer output.  Notices of this work appeared in the early journal at Dartmouth, Calculi,  and in the first issues of the journal Computers in the Humanities.

In 1987, Brown took early retirement from his academic duties to give full-time attention to other interests, commercial beekeeping, alternative energy production (hydropower and windpower) He and his wife Anne Larsen founded a community public radio statopn, having first purchased and renovated a small hydropower dam in Jeffersonville, New York.   In 1986 their retrofitted mini-hydro plant went onto the local electric grid.  The company’s name is Jeffersonville Hydroelectric Co.

For the following 10 years the plant’s output averaged 15KW of power output, this supplied at the wholesale via the local investor-owned utility company.  In 1986,  he and his wife founded a local branch of the NPR radio broadcast network.   The studio building was deliberately sited on the same land as the hydro plant, adjacent to the hydropower impoundment, Lake Jefferson. This allowed it to remain within the law whilst powering power the studio building.   The studio building is sited 25 meters uphill from the water turbines, and no private property boundaries are crossed by its incoming power lines.

One of the radio station’s favorite stories is the following, which has the advantage over stories, in being true.    Oliver Sacks, then residing and writing at the Lake Jefferson Hotel, swam across the lake to the studio to renew his station membership during a pledge drive.  He thus arrived in his bathing suit, to hand his personal checque to the station manager Sacks also offered the station the soundtrack of his then-new movie, Awakenings.  Sacks’s  idea was that the station could excerpt segments for its own local radio broadcast, powered by Sacks’s favorite lake.

This local station chooses all of its programming, and claims  uniqueness within the nation’s public radio system.  It is unique in drawing the bulk of its power needs from homespun hydroelectric energy. The station retains its autonomy today, setting its own policies and programming through citizen boards and committees exclusively.  More information is available at http://www.wjffradio.org.  It now streams live over the web.

After moving to Hull, Massachusetts in 1998, Brown won election to the board of its municipal Light Department.  He led its effort to install wind turbines on town-owned land.  Two town-owned windmills were installed by spring of 2006, both financed by local public funding. More information on this project is available at http://www.hullwind.org and at http://www.hullwind.com.   The windpower project won state and national awards.

In 2004 Brown turned to scholarly research again.   Three chapters of his dissertation had been published earlier, one on on infinite process mathematics in Theaetetus.

Brown delivered the Spring 2004 lecture on ancient philosophy to the South Carolina series “Rosamond Kent Sprague Lectures”.   His title was “Theaetetus, the Man and his Work: recovering some of his fragments”.

Brown intends to set aside space here at this website, to make it hospitable to scholarly discussion  coming down via the web.   A specialist term “sunspeiromai” from Plato’s dialogue Symposium applies to this.   It is a specialist word and an idiosyncratic spelling.  It has the general meaning  ‘co-seeding’, and goes along with an image  ‘seeding via any wind,’  — an image popularized by the Larousse dictionary and its motto ‘Je seme a tout vent’.    The Larousse motto is widely disseminated [the word diaspora shares the root verb stem]   This present site its logo. It carries forward several of the ideas of Plato.   One meaning is about ‘seeding’ the excellent constitution, if necessary in foreign soil (R. VI,11).   Further, Plato speaking a humble part through the young boy Theaetetus.   He has the young man himself speak carefully and humbly:  “If I make an error, you will correct me.”