In Memoriam: Arthur G. Johnson


by HPS staff

Arthur G. Johnson, a Health Physics Society (HPS) emeritus member, died 7 July 2018. Art joined the HPS in 1961. In 1976, he was appointed as a delegate to represent the HPS at the fourth congress of the International Radiation Protection Agency. He was a member of the HPS Board of Directors in the years 1979–1980, 1980–1981, and 1981–1982.

Art's obituary can be found on the Albany Democrat-Herald website.

John Ringle, Art's friend and Oregon State University (OSU) coworker, shared the following with HPS members:

Art Johnson—Remembrances

I first meet Art on a rainy day in November 1966. I was the reactor administrator for our new TRIGA (Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics) reactor, the construction of which was nearing completion, and Art was the new health physicist for the OSU Radiation Center. It was very fortuitous that Art came when he did as he had been working for the Atomic Energy Commission as an inspector for the past two years and this was just the kind of help we needed.

We needed someone who could design all of the radiation instrumentation for the reactor and surroundings and could help write the rules and regulations we needed for reactor operation and the radiation safety rules for the Radiation Center.

After Art had been here a short time, I invited him and his very pregnant wife, Jane, over for supper with Judy and me. We had a most enjoyable evening, and this was the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship.

After we got the reactor started and all of the regulations in place, which took about a year and a half, Art realized that we badly needed an instrument-calibration facility at the center. So he designed one and had it built. We used it to calibrate the radiation detectors at the center, and soon the detectors for the OSU campus.

The word got out and we ended up calibrating all of the radiation detectors for the state of Oregon and the fire and police first responders in Oregon.

Soon after, Art set up a training course for first responders to radiological incidences in Oregon. It was a one-week course in the summer and it still continues to this day.

After the TRIGA had been in operation for a few years, our various Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspections were always basically perfect with no defects. At that time, in the early 1970s, other universities were starting to build reactors on their campuses and they would ask the NRC for help in writing all of the regulations needed. The standard reply from the NRC was: "Call Oregon State. They know how to do it right."

After the academic program in nuclear engineering was established and running, we inherited the master's program in health physics from the Department of General Science. We modified the health physics MS program a bit, and soon after added a health physics PhD program. Art was very helpful in designing the curriculum for these new programs, and he taught several of the key courses—such as radiation biology—for many years.

Art also taught one of the courses all our undergraduates took called "Nuclear Rules and Regulations." It dealt with the various federal and state rules that govern nuclear reactors, nuclear material, and radiation safety. The students often grumbled a bit about this course, as it was quite detailed. After they graduated and had been on the job for a few years, however, many of them informed us that they really appreciated this course and that it had been very helpful.

Experimenters from other campuses and other countries often needed to ship radioactive samples from their experiments at OSU to their labs at home. Art devised a facility in the reactor bay at OSU to package these samples and designed shipping containers that met all federal standards for transportation.

Anyone who worked at the Radiation Center ultimately came in contact with Art. He was always friendly and helpful, and although he remained steadfast in his desire for radiation safety, he would gladly work with the experimenters to see if there was some way they could do their experiment within the radiation guidelines.

Art was on the faculty at the Radiation Center for 28 years, rising from assistant professor to professor, and then as director of the Radiation Center for the last 8 years. After retirement, he continued to be available to the Center staff for advice and help as needed.

Art died suddenly on July 7, 2018. It was a big shock to us all.

As you can see from the few examples listed above, Art Johnson left a very big legacy and a huge footprint on the Radiation Center and will be missed very much by all of us.