April 17, 1921–April 2, 1980
BY GÉRARD H. DE VAUCOULEURS
HAROLD JOHNSON, ONE OF the most productive and influential observational astrophysicists of this century, was born in Denver, Colorado, on April 17, 1921, the son of Averill C. and Marie (Sallach) Johnson. He received his elementary and secondary education in Denver schools and went on to the University of Denver, receiving the B.S. degree in mathematics in 1942. His correspondence makes it clear, however, that his mind was already set on becoming an astronomer.
Graduating with a strong physics background shortly after the entry of the United States in the Second World War, Johnson was immediately recruited by the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked on radar interference techniques. Here he met Albert Whitford, an astronomer then applying electronic techniques to photoelectric measurements of the light of stars. Toward the end of the war years Johnson moved to the Naval Ordnance Test Station, Inyokern, California, where he worked with Gerald Kron, also an astronomer engaged in the photoelectric photometry of stars.