August 9, 1900–May 25, 1983
BY CHARLES F. WILCOX, JERROLD MEINWALD, AND KEITH R. JOHNSON
JOHN RAVEN JOHNSON WAS born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 9, 1900. He developed into a precocious science student and received his B.S. degree at the University of Illinois in 1919. He stayed on at Illinois to work with Roger Adams, under whose direction he earned his M.S. in 1920 and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1922. His Ph.D. thesis work was concerned with the synthesis of pharmacologically active arsonic acid derivatives for treatment of trypanosomiasis, which resulted in two publications and a U.S. patent (1921, 1923, 1925). He spent two years abroad doing postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Charles Moreau at the Collège de France in Paris under a prestigious American Field Service Fellowship. There he developed a lifelong love of France and French wines. His research with C. Moreau and C. Dufraisse on the bromination of furylacrylic acid and its conversion to furyl acetylene was published (1923, 1927) along with other work on the reactions of furan derivatives (1928, 1929).
He returned to the University of Illinois, spent three further years there as an instructor, and made several contributions (1925, 1926, 1927) to the Organic Syntheses series introduced by R. Adams. At the time, chemical supply houses did not exist as they do now and the development of practical syntheses of organic starting materials on a large scale was