Brown was recognised for her life-long contribution to the field, from fundamental research to the development of widely used neutron diffraction and polarimetry techniques. She also played a key role in the extensively used Cambridge crystallography subroutine libraries, which help physicists identify crystal structure from diffraction patterns.

After graduating from Cambridge University in the 1960s, Brown became interested in neutron diffraction during a spell at Brookhaven National Laboratory. She subsequently established a programme of neutron diffraction at the UK Atomic Energy Authority's Harwell laboratory, and was appointed senior scientist at the Institut Laue Langevin in 1972. Although Brown formally retired from Institut Laue Langevin in 1995, she is still active in the field.