Science Building Honors Brother Alfred Brousseau

Brother Alfred Brousseau, FSC (1907-88), one of the most accomplished members of the San Francisco District of the De La Salle Christian Brothers in the last century, was honored in October when the College Board of Trustees voted to rename the J.C. Gatehouse science building after the late physics and mathematics instructor.

Brother Alfred won nationwide recognition for reviving the Fibonacci theory of numbers, a pattern found in mathematics as well as in music, art, and nature – for all of which he had a great passion. He breathed life into the number theory by co-founding the Fibonacci Quarterly research journal, and his work was featured in Time magazine in 1969.

A true Renaissance man, Brother Alfred also made significant contributions to the study of native plants, a hobby that involved many hiking and backpacking excursions in the Sierra Nevada mountains, says Brother Kenneth Cardwell, FSC. Brother Alfred produced a collection of more than 20,000 color slides of California wildflowers, now housed at the University of California, Berkeley, that spans more than 2,000 species.

Brother Alfred earned his Ph.D. in physics, studying under noted theoretical physicist Robert Oppenheimer at UC Berkeley. Paul Giurlanda, professor of religious studies, recalls that Brother Alfred had hoped to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics, but was asked by his superior to study physics instead. Giurlanda says that when asked about it, Alfred’s reply was simply, “I didn’t join this outfit to do my own will.”

Brother Kenneth said he was delighted that the science building was to be renamed in Brother Alfred’s honor. “He was a force of nature,” says Brother Kenneth.