Reporter 442, 8 November 1999

Resolution adopted by the Senate (20 October 1999) on the retirement of
Professor David Johnson

David Johnson has devoted the whole of his working life to the University of Leeds. He was a graduate of the Department of Physics in 1957. He subsequently joined the Textile Physics Group in the Department of Textile Industries and, working with H J Woods and Jan Sikorski, obtained an MSc degree (with distinction) in 1960 for his research thesis on the fine structure of cellulosic fibres. Stimulated by his fascination with electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction techniques and a keen interest in the structural characterisation of fibres, he turned his attention to Keratin and, in 1965, was awarded a PhD for his work on the fine and ultra-fine structure of Keratin.

By this time, he had been appointed assistant lecturer in textile physics, in 1961, and promoted to lecturer in 1964. In the late 1960s, as interest grew in the use of high performance fibres for engineering applications, he applied the expertise and knowledge of fibre structure and associated investigative techniques to carbon fibres. He worked closely with Rolls-Royce who, at that time, were developing the RB 2-11 jet engine, and subsequently with the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. This led to a number of research projects into the structure-property relationships of a wide range of natural and manufactured fibres, and a growing international reputation, to the extent that David is now, undisputedly, a world authority in this field and particularly in carbon-fibres. He has well over seventy research papers and presented numerous invited lectures throughout the world, notably at the prestigious Gordon conferences in the USA and the Royal Microscopical Society conferences. In recognition of his research eminence he was appointed to a readership in 1976 and, in 1992, as Professor of Fibre Science. Furthermore, in 1982 the Textile Institute bestowed on him jointly, with his close colleague Mike Dobb, the S G Smith Memorial Medal in recognition of their work on Aramid fibres.

More recently, he has developed an interest in the structure-property relationships of plant fibres, notably flax and straw, with the objective of developing new products from them, particularly from the agricultural waste.

In addition to his research interests, David devoted a considerable amount of his time to teaching and extra-curricular activities. He pioneered the introduction of computers and computing within the Department of Textile Industries and was founder member and subsequently chairman of the west constituency computer committee. His unfailing commitment to the Department of Textile Industries culminated in his appointment as Head of Department from 1991 to 1996. He performed this role with the same professionalism and attention to detail that he had shown in his previous research, working tirelessly to steer the Department through difficult financial years to maintain its international reputation. His foresight enabled him to play a central role in the introduction of multi-media teaching not only within the Department, but also in the University, with the development of the unique, pioneering Introduction to Textiles computer-based learning system and the establishment of the Clothworkers’ CBL Centre.

Outside the University, he provided stalwart service to the Textile Institute, the Institute of Physics and the Royal Microscopical Society, serving on and holding offices on many committees. He is also a member of the editorial board of High Performance Fibres.

Throughout his career David has maintained his health and fitness through an undying commitment to running. He could be seen regularly pounding through Far Headingley and the vicinity training for the marathons and half-marathons that he has entered over the years. His other great passion is Huddersfield Town FC and he should be commended for the loyal support that he has given them through many lean years.

David’s retirement marks the end of an era of textile physics at the University. His contribution to knowledge in this field is likely to remain unsurpassed; the Department is eternally grateful for his contribution. Although he is returning on a part-time basis to provide teaching support, the hope is that he will enjoy the additional time that he will have to pursue his interests and we wish him a long, happy and healthy retirement.

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