James Cooke Brown

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James Cooke Brown (a.k.a. JCB, 1921-2000) is the founder of the Loglan project (from which Lojban is an offshoot) and of The Loglan Institute.


Brown was born July 21, 1921 in the City of Tagbilaran on Bohol in the Phillippines, where his parents Bryan and Violet (Cooke) Brown were working as teachers. His parents separated, and in 1959, he moved to Minnesota with his mother.

Brown married Jeanne Ann O'Reilly in 1942 served as a combat navigator in the Army Air Force in England from 1942-1943. After James' return, the young couple had a son, Jeff, and a daughter, Jill. Brown attended the University of Minnesota, where he studied a number of subjects, graduating with a PhD University of Minnesota in 1952. His thesis was titled, "Cooperative Group Formation: A Problem in Social Engineering". At the same time he was completing his studies, his marriage was unraveling: The couple divorced in 1950.

Brown spent time in Mexico City, where he wrote science fiction, publishing a number of the completed works in sci-fi magazines. Upon returning to Minnesota, he worked as a research analyst in advertising. On the side, he developed a board game, Careers, which he sold to Milton Bradley.

Beginning in 1955, Brown taught sociology at the University of Florida in Gainesville. That winter, he started to develop the artificial language, Loglan, inspired in part by Harry Hoijer's 1953 paper which coined the term Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

In 1959, Brown married Lujoye Fuller, and the following year, in Volume 202, Number 6 of Scientific American, he introduced Loglan to the public in an article bearing its name. By 1961, he had secured a small grant from the United States National Institute of Mental Health to work on Loglan, stepping down from his teaching position to work with his wife on the computer-aided generation of a culturally neutral vocabulary for the language.

Brown was active in a number of social causes, and in 1963, was arrested and jailed in St. Augustine, Florida for participating in a "sit-in" to protest a segregated restaurant. 1965 heralded the birth of a daughter, Jennifer, and the next year saw the release of the first, "pre-print" edition of Loglan 1, a description of the design and grammar of Loglan, circulated for critical review.

In 1970, Brown published the The Troika Incident, a utopian novel he had drafted during his time in Mexico City, and which described a language called "Panlan" which seems to represent an early form of Loglan. His marriage with Lujoye ended in 1971. By Spring of 1972, a group of Loglan users ("Loglan Sogrun") had begun to congregate at Brown's lake house in Gainesville.

Loglan made a second public debut in 1975 when Brown published the Third Edition of Loglan 1 with a print run of 3,000 copies and advertisements placed in science-fiction and computer periodicals. Brown embarked on what he later called, "The Years of Invention", where he set out to resolve the issues with his language design uncovered by early users. Although disappointed when the Nstional Science Foundation rejected a grant request ("A Proposal for the Establishment of a Service/Support Relationship Between the Loglan Institute and the U.S. Computer Industry"), he was encouraged by the results of a 1977 experiment where live-in "apprentices" were taught the principles of Loglan, and were able to achieve some conversational ability. Meanwhile, he re-designed the morphology of the language while a number of computer scientists set out to demonstrate that the language was syntactically unambiguous.

By 1983, "The Great Morphological Revolution" (GMR) was complete, but disagreement over changes to the language boiled up into political turmoil at The Loglan Institute, and many Loglan enthusiasts walked away. In 1985, Brown married Evelyn Anderson.

It was during this period that Robert LeChevalier, a computer programmer who lived in San Diego, came to meet Brown through a mutual friend. After LeChevalier moved to Washington, DC, he started a Loglan user group and stepped up his volunteer efforts to restore TLI's membership as well as some of activities that had dropped off over the previous years such as newsletters and gatherings. When Brown, who had been traveling, returned and discovered the scope of LeChevalier's interventions, he accused LeChevalier of trying to take over TLI, and forbade him from distributing materials in Loglan. The language, said Brown, was the exclusive intellectual property of the institute.

In 1989, Brown published a new and greatly-expanded edition of Loglan 1, integrating the fruits of GMR as well as many other changes that had been distributed in 1987 as Notebook 3. Meanwhile, LeChevalier and the Loglanists that he had won over by his efforts began to develop the lojban language, retaining Loglan's design goals and much of its grammar, but with a completely renovated vocabulary. After years of legal battles, lojban and The Logical Language Group which had been organized to defend it, were granted the legal authority to describe lojban as "an implementation of Loglan". Brown was never reconciled to LeChavlier and lojban.

Brown went on to publish a number of other works, including a 1999 electronically-published update of Loglan 1. He also wrote a book entitled From Job Markets to Labor Markets, which was in part a serious treatment of some of the ideas that he had popularized in the Careers board game. It was later re-published as "The Job Market of the Future: Using Computers to Humanize Economies".

Brown died in 2001 while circumnavigating Tierra del Fuego with his wife, Evelyn. He is buried in the Cimenterio Municipal of Ushuaia, Argentia.