Carl J. Johnson

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Carl Jean Johnson
Johnson-Carl 033.jpg
Born (1929-07-02)July 2, 1929
Marion, Indiana
Died December 29, 1988(1988-12-29) (aged 59)
Lakewood, Colorado
Occupation Physician
Spouse(s) Kathryn Van Deusen
Parent(s) Fredrick Chancy Johnson (1902 – c. 1975) and Enabel Routh (1907 – c. 1945)

Carl Jean Johnson (July 2, 1929 – December 29, 1988), was a public health physician who opposed nuclear testing.[1]

Birth and marriage[edit]

Carl Johnson was born in Sims, Indiana on July 2, 1929 to Fredrick Chancy Johnson (1902 – c. 1975) and Enabel Routh (1907-c.1945).[2] He had the following siblings: George Johnson (1927 − c. 1992); Derrold Johnson (born 1931); and Sarah E. Johnson (born 1939) who married David L. Mort (1937–2005). He was raised in Grant County, Indiana. At age 12 he came down with tuberculosis, and though he overcame the sickness his growth was stunted. He began a strict weightlifting regimen and developed proper eating habits that allowed him to overcome his physical weakness. At least once in his later life, he would have to have cysts from the tuberculosis infection removed. Carl married Kathryn Van Deusen (1923–2005). Kathryn was the daughter of Emmett Peter Van Deusen I (1878–1965) and Margaret McKenzie Barton (1885–1963).[1]

US Army and education[edit]

He entered service in the United States Army on July 3, 1946. As a corporal, he was stationed in Guam as a surveyor. It was largely an uneventful tour of duty, with the exception of while surveying the island's jungles he found a wrecked bomber from World War II that still had the pilot's remains inside. He was discharged from Army service on March 18, 1949. He later became an Army Reservist and attained the rank of Colonel. He went to Michigan State University and the Ohio State University College of Medicine. He had a master's degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley.[1]

Rocky Flats[edit]

In 1976 he was the Director of the Jefferson County, Colorado Department of Health. He reported that soil around the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant contained 44 times more plutonium than the government claimed. In 1977 he reported higher-than-average rates of leukemia and cancer among the local people. In 1980 he reported that plant workers had eight times more brain tumors than expected. In 1981 he was fired. He later won a whistleblower lawsuit against Jefferson County, Colorado. In 1985 he lost an election to become the Boulder County, Colorado Director of Health.[1][3]

Death and burial[edit]

Johnson died on December 29, 1988 at Lutheran Memorial Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado of complications following coronary bypass surgery. He was buried in the Fort Logan National Cemetery in Colorado on January 3, 1989.[1][4][5]


  • Carl J. Johnson, "Funding of Radiation Protection Standards Research", letter to the editor, American Journal of Public Health, February 1979.
  • Carl J. Johnson, "Cancer Incidence in an Area of Radioactive Fallout Downwind from the Nevada Test Site", Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 251, Number 2, January 13, 1984.
  • Carl J. Johnson, "Rocky Flats: Death Inc." The New York Times, Op-Ed; Sunday, December 18, 1988, Op-ed E-23.



  1. ^ a b c d e "Dr. Carl J. Johnson Is Dead at 58. Opposed Nuclear Weapons Tests.". New York Times. December 30, 1988. Retrieved 2008-11-03. Dr. Carl J. Johnson, a public health official who attacked the Federal Government over the potentially dangerous effects of nuclear weapons testing, died of complications from heart surgery yesterday at Lutheran Memorial Hospital in Lakewood, Colo. He was 59 years old and lived in Lakewood. Dr. Johnson, an epidemiologist and radiation specialist, was the public health director in Jefferson County, Colo., the site of the Government's Rocky Flats Plant, from 1973 to 1981. Rocky Flats, 16 miles northwest of Denver, shapes plutonium into triggers for thermonuclear weapons. The plant opened in 1953. 
  2. ^ "Johnsons in 1930 US census". 1930 US Census. Retrieved 2008-11-03 – via Wikimedia Common. 
  3. ^ Kristen Iversen (March 10, 2012). "Nuclear Fallout". New York Times. 
  4. ^ "Dr. Carl J. Johnson; Weapons Plant Critic". Los Angeles Times. January 2, 1989. Dr. [Carl J. Johnson], an early and outspoken critic of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, has died of complications from heart surgery. He was 59. Johnson was forced to resign as Jefferson County health director in May, 1981, after his publication of studies showing a higher incidence of cancer in areas of Jefferson and Denver counties close to the Rocky Flats plant 16 miles northwest of Denver. As the controversy surrounding Rocky Flats built over the last four months, Johnson appeared and spoke at several public forums. 
  5. ^ "Respected in Death". Boston Globe. January 11, 1989. They buried him with military honors. At the Fort Logan National Cemetery here, they gently laid him to rest alongside captains and majors and generals. Clean-cut Army men shouldered his coffin. It was probably the most respect Carl J. Johnson ever got from the government. Since the early 1970s when he first began monitoring events at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, 16 miles northwest of Denver, he had been considered mostly a nuisance and a troublemaker, a scientist who ... They buried him with military honors. At the Fort Logan National Cemetery here, they gently laid him to rest alongside captains and majors and ...