Robert Joseph Johnson – Colonel, United States Army

From a contemporary press report

Dr. Robert J. Johnson, Anatomy and Surgery

Dr. Robert J. Johnson, professor emeritus of anatomy and surgery at the School of Medicine, died on December 22, 1998, in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania of a malignant brain tumor and medical complications. He was 83 years old.

Robert Joseph Johnson was born in Toppenish, Washington, February 8, 1915, the son of a Methodist minister. Graduating from the University of Iowa's College of Medicine in 1943, in the midst of World War II.  He served as a battalion surgeon in the 75th Infantry Division and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. He treated wounded G.I.s as well as German civilians in need of care. Following active duty, he continued to serve in the U.S. Army Reserve, retiring in 1975 with the rank of Colonel.

Dr. Johnson developed an intense interest in and capacity for the study of anatomy early in medical school, and this led to his life's work as a teacher of human anatomy. He was selected as a member of the first faculty of the newly formed School of Medicine of the University of Washington, Seattle, joining several outstanding colleagues who included Robert H. Williams in medicine and Henry Harkins in surgery. Dr. Johnson then began the development of his approach to the teaching of his subject, including the use of detailed color plates from German and American anatomical masterworks, which resulted in an effect remembered by students and by colleagues, then and later, who were struck by his profound knowledge of the structure of the human body in its magnificent detail and infinite variety. Dr. Johnson's own work was informed by his background as a physician. Throughout his professional life he lectured to the members of virtually all medical specialties.

In 1959, Dr. Johnson became chairman of anatomy at West Virginia University. Subsequently he was recruited by Dr. Isadore S. Ravdin of the University of  Pennsylvania, and in 1963, became chairman of the Department of Anatomy of the Graduate School of Medicine at Penn. His  cmmitment was to scholarship and to the sharing of knowledge with all of his students. Even after becoming emeritus professor in 1985, he remained active teaching advanced anatomy to students,  house staff and residents at PennMed despite the illness he faced.

Dr. Johnson served on the National Board of Medical Examiners, was a member of a number of professional societies including the John Morgan Society and the Halsted Society, and was a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He made many contributions to scientific literature.

Dr. Johnson is survived by his wife, Dorothy, whom he met during medical school  in Iowa City, and by their three daughters, Lynn, Patsy, and Nora, and by a grandson, Ethan Penn.

Burial, with full military honors, was at Arlington National Cemetery.

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