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William S. Johnson; Award-Winning Stanford Chemist

August 26, 1995

William S. Johnson, 82, Stanford professor of organic chemistry who earned the National Medal of Science. Johnson received the coveted prize in 1987 from President Ronald Reagan for "outstanding achievements in organic synthesis." Johnson devised efficient ways to make several chemical compounds, including steroids, vitamins and hormones. To do this, he discovered how to imitate the biological processes by which such highly complex molecules were created, rather than follow the more cumbersome classic process of synthesis. Johnson was credited with expanding and elevating Stanford's chemistry department, which he headed from 1960 to 1969, to one of the world's best. He retired from teaching in 1978 but had continued his research until recently. A decade ago the department set up an annual organic chemistry symposium in his honor. Johnson had taught at the University of Wisconsin until joining Stanford after World War II. On Aug. 19 in Palo Alto.

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