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GTRI antenna expert and engineering mentor dies
Georgia Tech Research Institute
Richard C. Johnson, a Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) retiree,
world-renowned antenna expert and exceptional mentor to young engineers,
died last month after a long battle with Parkinsons disease. He
Johnson invented and patented the Compact Antenna Range used worldwide
today which allows installations of microwave antennas to be measured
and tested accurately indoors. He also designed and improved antennas
for ship surface search radars, hundreds of which have been installed
aboard U.S. Navy vessels, said Jim Cofer, director of GTRIs Business
Most designers of that era concentrated on the main beam region
of an antenna, Cofer said. Dick recognized that most interference/susceptibility
of a system occurred in the other 99.9 percent of the antennas spherical
domain. Therefore, he included these considerations in his designs.
Johnsons widespread recognition was directly responsible for
establishing the threat simulator research and development base at GTRI,
said Cofer. Cumulative funding for this area is now well over $200
million, making it possibly the largest continuously funded research area
Colleagues agree Johnson was ahead of his time. For a fall 1999 issue
of Research Horizons, Tech faculty were asked to rank the
most important scientific innovations produced at Tech. Johnsons
compact range was one of the 14 identified.
He also believed in passing on his knowledge to younger engineers. To
that end, Johnson organized Friday afternoon Antenna Bull Sessions
in his office in the late 1960s for a select group of younger GTRI researchers,
including Cofer, Neal Alexander and Don Bodnar, assigning homework projects
and teaching them to solve difficult, real-world antenna problems.
When riding the daily shuttle from our facility in Cobb County to
campus in the mornings and evenings, Dick used to quiz and tutor the co-ops
also riding the shuttle that were working with us on the programs,
GTRI senior research engineer Rickey Cotton recalled. He would quiz
them on the frequency limits of the radar bands and typical waveguide
sizes associated with each.
A Georgia Tech alumnus, Johnson taught electrical engineering at Tech
and wrote several books, which Cotton continues to use in his work.
In 1988, Johnson also became the first Tech research faculty member to
receive Board of Regents approved emeritus status.
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