Scientist - Teacher - Poet - Lover of Life

(1949 - 2000)

J. David Johnson was born in McKenzie, Tennessee on March 11, 1949. He received his B.S. in mathematics (1971) and M.S. (1974) and Ph.D. in Biophysics (1976) from Michigan State University. After postdoctoral training at Baylor University, he became an Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati in 1978. He moved to the Department of Medical Biochemistry at Ohio State University as an Associate Professor in 1983 and was promoted to Professor in 1988. David was respected as an outstanding scientist, innovative teacher and dynamic leader in departmental and college affairs. Also he had a great zest for life.


In David's professional life nothing was more important than designing and executing provocative experiments. His mind always was working on research ideas. He published 98 scientific papers. He had established research collaborations with scientists from around the University and around the world. He had an undeniable reputation for reliability. If David said that he would do an experiment, it was always done and in a timely manner. He possessed tremendous energy and was very unselfish with his time and willing to share ideas with others. He did not usually attend scientific meetings because he did not want to be away from the laboratory for extended periods of time. He often conducted experiments in the laboratory side-by-side with his students, technicians or postdoctoral fellows. He was an excellent mentor of graduate students. But he also was demanding. He expected his students to share his love for good science and hard work. But he never demanded as much from anyone as he demanded from himself.


David loved to teach and was a marvelous teacher. He was as precise and dedicated in his teaching efforts as he was in his scientific endeavors. He and his laboratory technicians spent literally hundreds of hours developing novel computer animations that were utilized during his lectures on calcium and muscle contraction. His lectures were beloved by medical and graduate students alike. True to form, David challenged students to think deeply while entertaining them at the same time. His lectures incorporated the latest knowledge and included original scientific results where David deemed appropriate. So impressive were these lectures that the Dean of the College of Medicine elected to show a segment of one lecture as an example of outstanding innovative teaching in the College.


David was a dynamic, challenging leader. He developed his arguments with the same clear logic and data gathering that characterized his scientific studies. He believed deeply in rewarding excellence and the preeminence of departments in molding the future of the College. He was a major architect of the new School of Biomedical Science in the College of Medicine. He personally wrote much of the document describing the School and its goals and ambitions. Because of the thoughtfulness that David employed to develop his views, he was difficult to argue against. But in his mind, logic and facts always ruled the day. If your facts were stronger than his facts, he accepted that and modified his view. To David, right was right and wrong was wrong. He didn't believe that wrong should be accepted as right for political convenience.


David's love of science was matched only by his zest for life and his caring for family and friends. He was always working around his home in the country with its many acres of woods and stables where his wife Cynde boards horses. He could be found cutting down trees, splitting wood or cleaning the stables, etc. An event that exemplified David's adventuresome spirit occurred when he Bungee jumped off a bridge over a river in New Zealand. David had the Bungee cord adjusted so that his head just touched the water on the jump. David was indeed a remarkable person. We will miss him!


Adapted from an overview of David's life and work prepared by Professor Jack A. Rall of Ohio State University - January 2000.


The family and Ohio State University College of Medicine have established a memorial fund to provide an annual award for outstanding academic achievement to a student in the College:

The J. David Johnson Memorial Fund

Stephen E. Tumblin, Director of Development
660 Ackerman Rd, 6th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43218


Those close to David knew him as one who often expressed his feelings through poetry -  as had his  grandfather before him. Here are three selections that highlight both David's zest for life and more somber reflections on life itself.  




Niles, Michigan: Funeral services for Sarah A. "Sally" Remus, 79, of Regent Street in Niles, were held Friday, April 2, at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Niles with the Rev. John W. Schindler of the church and Rev. John R. Tolly of Niles officiating. Burial was in the Silverbrook Cemetery. Mrs. Remus died on Wednesday at 6:45 a.m. at Riveridge Manor Nursing Home. She was born on July 26, 1924 in Lenawee County, Michigan. In 1940, in an airplane over Bay County, Michigan she was married to J. B. Johnson of Gleason, Tennessee who died on March 26, 1957. In December of 1963, in Niles, she was married to Harold Remus, who survives. Mrs. Remus was employed at the medical offices of Dr. Scott Moore and had been a real estate agent in Niles. She was a member of First Baptist Church and a volunteer at Pawating Hospital Auxiliary. She was a member of the Southwestern Association of Realtors. Besides their own, she and her husband Harold, also helped raise several other children in their home. Survivors include her husband, Harold; two sons, James H. Johnson, Ph.D, of Gainesville, Florida and Gary Johnson, Ph.D. of Richmond Virginia; two step-children, Gary Remus of Berrien Springs and Linda Wilson of Niles; two grandchildren Trey and Jamie Johnson; nine step-grandchildren, Kim, Jonathon, Matt, Steve, Josh, Chris, Jeremy, Nate and Taylor; a brother, William T. Ossmer of Daytona Beach, Florida; three sisters, Nancy Anton, Barbara Taylor and Margaret Gillette, all of Niles. She was preceded in death by her first husband, J.B. Johnson; a son, David Johnson, Ph.D. in January of 2000; two brothers, Daniel and David Ossmer. Funeral arrangements were handled by Halbritter Funeral Home.

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