The Corner

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Meet the Browders

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” What are the Browders? Happy or unhappy? Both, probably — like most families — but mainly they are interesting.

In Wichita, Kan., Earl Browder had to leave school and go to work before the age of ten — that’s because his dad went bust. Earl became a union organizer and a Communist. He went to the young Soviet Union, meeting his hero, Lenin. He became general secretary of the American Communist party.

He and his wife had three sons: Felix, Andrew, and William. They became chairmen of the math departments at Chicago, Brown, and Princeton. Felix won the National Medal of Science.

He and his wife had two sons: Tom and Bill. Tom entered the University of Chicago at 15 and today is a leading particle physicist. Bill got an MBA and became a capitalist — the leading foreign investor in post-Soviet Russia. Then the Kremlin turned on him and tortured his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, to death. Bill is now a leading human-rights activist, and the instigator of “Magnitsky acts,” which apply sanctions to murderers and thieves.

His son Joshua is a student at Stanford, figuring out how to get artificial intelligence to replace lawyers in a variety of tasks. He is a poster child for IBM — literally. The poster lit up New York’s Times Square last summer.

I’ve written about this unusual family — on the homepage here.

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