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Richard Tidball Johnson

Richard Tidball Johnson


Johnson, a director of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was born in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. He earned his bachelor’s degree with honors at the University of Colorado in 1953, and his M.D. at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in 1956. After completing his internship in medicine at Stanford University Hospitals in San Francisco, he worked as a clinical pathologist in the department of virus diseases at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, where his interest in the origin of viral diseases and infections of the central nervous system began. He then completed a residency and fellowship in neurology and neuropathology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Johnson received a teaching fellowship on exchange at the Medical School of Kings College at the University of Durham and at the Royal Victoria Infirmary at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in England from January through August of 1962. He was then named an honorary fellow in the department of microbiology at The John Curtain School of Medical Research at the Australian National University from 1962 to 1964. Johnson was appointed to the department of neurology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1964. He was recruited to Johns Hopkins in 1969 to join Guy McKhann in founding the department of neurology.

A member of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine faculty from 1969 to 2015, Johnson served as director of the department of neurology from 1988 until 1997. During his directorship of neurology, he expanded the faculty from forty to more than 100 members, and established new programs, including neurointensive care and epilepsy monitoring.

Johnson held a joint appointment in the department of immunology and infectious diseases in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health from 1997 until his death. He mentored more than fifty-five postdoctoral fellows in virology, neurology, immunology, and neurovirology, with at least ten of them going on to become heads of their own departments. Johnson served on the faculties of medical schools in Australia, Germany, Iran, Peru, and Thailand. During this period, he traveled widely, teaching and establishing laboratories to study infectious diseases.

Johnson led the development of the field of neurovirology, the study of viruses that infect the nervous system. He was an expert clinician and founder of the multiple sclerosis clinic at Johns Hopkins. Patients came from all over the world with mysterious infections of the nervous system to see him. Johnson developed a multidisciplinary laboratory group to study viruses linked to a wide variety of chronic neurological diseases.

Johnson received numerous national and international awards, including the first Association of British Neurologists Multiple Sclerosis Medal in 1986, the first Soriano Award from the World Federation of Neurology in 1993, and the first Pioneer Award from the International Society of Neurovirology in 1999. After his retirement in 1997, Johnson served as director of the National Neuroscience Institute of Singapore and as editor of Annals of Neurology. He authored more than 300 peer-reviewed articles in professional journals and edited ten books. He was author of Viral Infections of the Nervous System, a landmark text first published in 1982.

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