William Theodore Kim Johnson, Ph.D. a long time scientist and engineer at the Cal Tech Jet Propulsion Laboratory, died September 8th. He was suffering from ALS. Dr. Johnson joined JPL in 1975 and worked there until his death. In the words of one of his colleagues: "Throughout his career, Bill made indelible contributions to design, performance analysis and/or management on just about all of the major radar missions that JPL has built and flown, which is a legacy that few of us can claim."
Dr. Johnson played an important role in the development of the SeaSAT radar, an earth-orbiting satellite, Magellan, a Venus orbiting radar, and Cassini, which created the first ever map of the surface of Saturn s moon, Titan. He worked also with the Italian space agency to develop two Mars sounders, MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface Ionosphere Sounding) and SHARAD (Shallow Radar) which is flying on the U.S. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. More recently Dr. Johnson was involved in the development of the next generation of earth-orbiting synthetic aperture radars.
Bill Johnson was born in Seoul, Korea on August 8th 1938 where his father was serving as a consular officer. Growing up he lived in China, Brazil, Japan, Czechoslovakia, Germany, and Thailand as well as California and Washington DC. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and received his Ph.D. in physics from American University in Washington, D.C.
He enjoyed travel to many foreign destinations and played tennis with friends in his La Canada-Flintridge neighborhood. He was a developer of the most sophisticated of devices, but could always find time to help family and friends whose understanding of computers and other modern gadgets fell short of their ambition.
Bill Johnson is survived by his beloved wife of 37 years, Toni Cavanagh Johnson, Ph.D. two daughters, Taj Chiu of Pasadena and Alexis Johnson Marsh of London, England; a step-son, Matthew Murray of New York City; two sisters, Judith Kampmann of Bend, Oregon and Jennifer Bishop of Santa Monica; and a brother, Stephen Johnson of Arlington, Virginia as well five grandchildren.