Samuel Brown, physician, was born on January 30, 1769, in Augusta (now Rockbridge) County, Virginia, the eighth of eleven children of the Rev. John and Margaret (Preston) Brown. He earned a B.A. degree in 1789 at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He studied medicine under his brother-in-law, Dr. Alexander Humphreys; as a private pupil of Dr. Benjamin Rush at the medical school in Philadelphia for approximately two years; at Scotland's Edinburgh University for two years; and at the University of Aberdeen, graduating with an M.D. degree in 1794. He first practiced medicine at Bladensburg, Maryland, then moved to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1797 to join his family. In 1799 Brown was named professor of surgery, anatomy, and chemistry and pharmacy at the newly established medical school at Lexington's Transylvania University. In 1806 he moved to New Orleans.
On September 27, 1808, Brown married Catherine Percy and settled on a plantation near Natchez, Mississippi. They had three children: Susan Catherine, James, and Catherine. After his wife's death in 1813, he moved to a plantation near Huntsville, Alabama. In 1819 Brown became professor of theory and practice of medicine at Transylvania. Brown, one of the foremost medical professionals of his time, had a wide range of interests and associates. He corresponded with Thomas Jefferson and partly through the influence of Jefferson, was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society. He is credited with being the first Kentucky physician to write a medical paper published in the New York Medical Repository, the only medical journal published in the United States at that time.
Brown was an early supporter and user of the cowpox virus for smallpox inoculation, and he vaccinated people in Lexington as early as 1802. He is credited with inventing an improved method of distilling spirits that used steam; with first suggesting the method for clarifying ginseng for the Chinese market; with playing a major role in establishing lithography in America (ca. 1819); and with helping to introduce lithotrity into the United States from France (1824). In an attempt to establish harmony and a code of ethics among doctors, Brown founded the Kappa Lambda Society of Hippocrates in Lexington around 1819. After leaving Transylvania in 1825, Brown retired to his Alabama plantation. He died in Alabama on January 12, 1830.