Educated at the University of Illinois, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Chicago, Stewart Brown taught at Northwestern University and the University of Georgia before being appointed to the Chair of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Edinburgh in 1987. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Divinity from 2000 to 2002, and Head of the School of Divinity from 2002-2004 and again from 2010 to 2013.
He has lectured widely in Europe, China, Australia, India and the USA, and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He served as co-editor of the Scottish Historical Review from 1993 to 1999. In 2013, he was awarded the honorary Doctorate in Theology from the Reformed University of Debrecen in Hungary.