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Walter Johnson, pioneer in design of engineering curricula, dies at 92

Photo of: Walter Johnson


Princeton NJ -- Walter Johnson, who was known for his devotion to teaching and his pioneering work in engineering curricula design, died April 22. He was 92.

Johnson joined Princeton’s electrical engineering faculty in 1937. He was promoted to full professor in 1948 and served as chair of the department from 1950 to 1965. He was appointed the Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical Engineering in 1963.

As the field of electrical engineering evolved through the years, Johnson developed fresh courses to fit the new requirements. He wrote several textbooks, which were widely accepted and translated into other languages.

Johnson chaired a committee that spearheaded a post-World War II modernization of the engineering curriculum. He also was instrumental in the design of the department’s doctoral program, introduced in 1948, and the initiation in 1958 of the program in teaching and research in computer science as well as the development of the programs in engineering physics and in electronic materials and devices. He transferred to emeritus status in 1982. The Walter Johnson Prize for Excellence in Teaching, awarded biennially by the Department of Electrical Engineering, was established in his honor in 1986.

Johnson received the Western Electric Award from the American Society for Engineering Education in 1967. He was a fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, a senior member of the Institute of Radio Engineers and former chair of its Princeton subsection. He was elected an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers fellow in 1955 and an IRE fellow in 1962. He became a member of the Sigma Xi honor society in 1938 and served as president of the Princeton chapter in 1956-57.

Johnson was born in Weikert, Pa., and earned his B.S.E. and E.E. degrees from Pennsylvania State University in 1934 and 1942, respectively. During World War II, he directed a research project for the Bureau of Naval Ordnance at Princeton that resulted in the development of the original subcarrier telemetering device used to determine performance data of supersonic missiles.

Johnson, who had been a resident of Hightstown, is survived by three sons. A memorial service took place April 27. Donations in his memory may be made to the Forum Education Award Program, Meadow Lakes, 300 Meadow Lakes, Hightstown, NJ 08520.