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Biographical entry Johnson, Richard Turner (1912 - 1996)

OBE 1946; MRCS 1937; FRCS 1940; MA Cambridge 1938; MB BCh 1938.

30 June 1912
21 September 1996


Richard Johnson was born on 30 June 1912 in Manchester, the son of Herbert Johnson, a company secretary, and Grace, née Rose. He was educated at King's School, Macclesfield and in 1932 was awarded an Exhibition to Downing College, Cambridge, where he obtained first class honours in the natural science tripos part I, a BA in 1934 and an MA in 1938. His clinical studies were at St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he was first junior, then senior, house surgeon. In 1940 he was house surgeon and clinical assistant to Geoffrey Jefferson in the neurosurgical department of Manchester Royal Infirmary. He returned to Bart's in 1941 as chief assistant to the surgical professorial unit and surgeon to the Emergency Medical Service Head Injury Centre.

His military career extended from 1942 to 1946. He was commanding officer in No 3 Mobile Neurosurgical Unit attached to Slim's 14th Army in Burma, eventually gaining the rank of lieutenant colonel, and being awarded the OBE (military). During this time he undertook investigations into fractures of the anterior fossa with dural tears and on gram negative infection, work which was subsequently published in the Lancet and the British Journal of Surgery. On his return to civilian life in 1946 he was appointed lecturer in neurosurgery at the University of Manchester, assistant neurosurgeon in 1949 and was director of the University Department of Neurosurgery until his retirement in 1977.

Johnson wrote extensively after the war, contributing important studies with PO Yates on tentorial herniation (a particular interest of Jefferson's) and on cerebrospinal fluid circulation, cerebral abscess and intracranial aneurysms. He was an excellent operator with an original turn of mind, developing new approaches to orbito-cranial lesions and disease of the petrous bone. His methods of organisation and lack of regard for time, the latter a characteristic of his mentor, Jefferson, sometimes made difficulties for his junior staff; however, he had an uncanny knack of turning up in the operating theatre just when needed, and his personal charm, humour and enthusiasm were always evident. He was active in a number of organisations: he was President of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons from 1970 to 1972 and took an important part in the development of the European Association of Neurosurgical Societies in 1971, becoming its first President. He held a Hunterian professorship of the College in 1950, was President of the Section of Neurology of the Royal Society of Medicine and President and life member of the North of England Neurological Association.

He married Mairead Farragher in 1942 and she predeceased him in 1989. They had two sons, one of whom became a neurologist, and a daughter. He died on 21 September 1996, following a stroke.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Daily Telegraph 14 November 1996].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England