Dr. George B. Johnson is a researcher, educator, and author. Born in 1942 in Virginia, he went to college in New Hampshire (Dartmouth), attended graduate school in California (Stanford), and is Professor Emeritus of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, where he has taught freshman biology and genetics to undergraduates for over 35 years. Also Professor of Genetics at Washington University’s School of Medicine, Dr. Johnson is a student of population genetics and evolution, authoring over forty scientific journal publications. His laboratory work is renowned for pioneering the study of previously undisclosed genetic variability. His field research has centered on alpine butterflies and flowers, much of it carried out in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming. Other ecosystems he has explored in recent years include Brazilian and Costa Rican rainforest, the Florida Everglades, the seacoast of Maine, coral reefs off Belize, the ice fields and mountains of Patagonia, and, delightfully, vineyards in Tuscany.
A profilic writer and educator, Dr. Johnson is the author of ten nationally recognized high school and college biology texts, including the hugely successful university text BIOLOGY (with botanist Peter Raven) and three current college texts: UNDERSTANDING BIOLOGY, THE LIVING WORLD, and ESSENTIALS OF THE LIVING WORLD. He has also authored two widely-used high school biology textbooks, HOLT BIOLOGY and BIOLOGY: VISUALIZING LIFE. In the 30 years he has been authoring biology texts, over three million students have been taught from textbooks Dr. Johnson has written.
Dr. Johnson has been involved in innovative efforts to incorporate interactive learning and internet experiences into our nation’s classrooms. He has served on a National Research Council task force to improve high school biology teaching, and as the founding director of The Living World, the education center at the St Louis Zoo, where he was responsible for development of a broad range of innovative high-tech exhibits and an array of new educational programs.
Saint Louis residents may be familiar with Dr. Johnson as the author of a weekly science column, ON SCIENCE, initially appearing in the St. Louis Post Dispatch and now to be found at BiologyWriter.com. Dedicated to educating the general public about today’s science, Dr. Johnson continues to write new articles on current issues where science plays a key role, issues such as AIDS, the environment, cloning, genetic engineering, and evolution. The articles, focused on explaining “how” and “why,” are intended to give readers the tools to think about these issues as citizens and voters. On the BiologyWriter website, each article is linked to the pages in his texts that explain in detail the science underlying the issue.
Dr. Johnson is best known for the clarity of his writing. Most students are very interested in science, he points out, but are put off by the terminology. When you don’t know what the words mean, its easy to slip into thinking that the matter is difficult, when actually the ideas are simple, easy to grasp, and fun to consider. Its the terms that get in the way, that stand as a wall between students and science. In his writing, Dr. Johnson aims to turn those walls into windows, so that students can peer in and join the fun. Anologies are his tool. In each chapter he looks for simple analogies that relate the matter at hand to things we all know. As science, analogies are not exact, trading precision for clarity. “But if I do my job right,” Johnson explains, “the key idea is not compromised by the analogy I use to explain it, but rather revealed.”
To view Dr. Johnson’s Curriculum Vitae click here.
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