Embryology History - Franklin Paradise Johnson

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Franklin Paradise Johnson

The text below is from a 1943 memorial to Franklin Paradise Johnson (1888-1943).

Lewis FT. Clark ER. and Scammon RE. Franklin Paradise Johnson. (1943) Anat. Rec. 86: 1-7.

Franklin P. Johnson was born in Hannibal, Missouri, January 7, 1888, the parental Paradise and Johnson families being of French and English ancestry. Of his Missouri boyhood we have little information, but he sold stereoscopes and worked for a jeweler to support himself at the University of Missouri, where he received the A.B. degree in 1908. As undergraduate he took five medical school courses in anatomy under Prof. C. M. Jackson, with grade A in each of them. Then, when he saw on the bulletin board a notice sent by Prof. Charles S. Minot to his friend Dean Jackson, stating that a Teaching Fellowship in microcopic anatomy was available at the Harvard Medical School, “Johnny” applied and was accepted. He came like a breath of fresh air in a musty laboratory, and the professor, captivated by his buoyant peronality, cleared the Way for rapid advance. Johnson was athletic - full of life and energy. At a surprising remark he would turn a back somersault in the air; he had his mandolin for solace; and if the professor on arrival in the morning found his desk chair already occupied and tilted back, he welcomed the nonchalant greeting from his student Fellow. In this country one does not come to attention and salute as the head professor passes by.


In the Harvard laboratory Johnson found an assistant professor who had received a belated assignment to write the chapter on the development of the digestive tract for the Keibel—Mall “Human Embryology.” That combined undertaking by German and American authors, promising closer relations than ever with the German scholarship so much admired by all, was an opportunity which could not be declined, though in the time available it could not possibly be met. Hence, as adroitly as possible, the advantages of a study of the transition from the original smooth entodermal lining to the serviceable pits and elevations of the digestive apparatus at birth, were suggested to the newcomer, for whom the head professor had proposed a program of his own—the blood supply and vascular relations of the suprarenal gland. J ohn— son chose the digestive tube, and had a paper on that subject ready for the Boston meeting of the Anatomists, in December, 1909, when he was elected member of the Association. Ultimately he made upwards of fifty wax reconstructions of the intestinal mucosa. Some of them were described in his first publication (1910), whereupon he received the Harvard A.M. and was appointed instructor in histology and embryology.


The summer of 1911 was spent at Keibel’s Institute in Freiburg. Johnson arrived there after a two-weeks’ tour of Italy, reporting that he should always long for the time when he could return; but he had business elsewhere. Professor Keibel received him most hospitably in his laboratory, where he was soon at home. Leaving some tissue in fluid that he wished stirred, he placed it in a passageway, with a label — “Shake it up.” The professor himself, pausing to inspect the outfit, soberly complied with directions and passed on. On the visit of Dr. and Mrs. Clark, Johnson was delegated to show them the “Institut.” He met Graupp — Wiedersheim was absent — and found Ranson and Evans there, all sending greetings to Minot. Johnson added that, to his surprise, the Keibel collection of sectioned embryos was very poor in comparison with Minot’s, referring to a technique which, as further developed by his friend Heuser, was to become unsurpassed anywhere.


On returning to Boston, the intestinal researches were continued to the colon. Johnson discovered for himself, and pictured effectively, the virtual obliteration of glands and villi on distention of the small intestine of the newborn guinea—pig, and their return to normal shapes when pressure is reduced. This property is unusually well-developed in the guinea-pig, where we learned that Heitzmann had noted it in 1868. With all this work as a thesis (published in two papers in 1913) Johnson obtained his Harvard doctorate in Philosophy (June, 1912). Not always did the assistant professor’s advice outweigh that of his superior, for Johnson had followed the latter in seeking his degree in philosophy rather than in medicine.

Looking back to this time Dr. Johnson wrote (from Johns Hopkins, June 22, 1919):

“From my own experience I believe the M.D. training is more broadening and possibly more fitting for one going into the teaching of anatomy. But there are things to be said against the M.D. training as it is now given . . . In my own class here . . . at least fifty per cent of the medical students show evidence of originality if they were given the chance. But no——the ablest students dig and grind away . . . Perhaps the greatest drawing card for the Ph.D. is that one can make a livelihood While working for the degree. This to me was a very important consideration.”


Dr. Johnson was immediately recalled to Missouri as assistant professor of anatomy (191 2), and in the following year, when Professor Jackson accepted a call to Minnesota, he was promoted to associate professor, and became, pro tempore, head of the department. In Boston he had met a talented student of the Museum School of Art, Miss Annette Gavett, and their wedding, planned for 1912, had been postponed because of nervous illness. It took place in August, 1913; and full of pranks as of old, he was deliberately late at his wedding to show his unconcern. But the bride was later yet, and his best man anxiously sought her out. Their years in Missouri were happy and busy. A house was built. Researches on the intestinal tube were completed with a much needed account of the development of the rectum and anus (1914, 57 pages), and a casual report of atresia ani in a 26-mm. embryo (1914). The value of these digestive tube studies is suggested by the fact that five of Dr. J 0hnson’s figures -—perhaps more than those of any other American anatomist—have been reproduced in Von M6llendorff’s splended “Handbuch.”


After Dr. Clark had accepted the position ‘of professor of anatomy in Missouri (1914), he came to know “how able and experienced Dr. Johnson was — a good teacher, a fine investigator, and an excellent administrator.” The work of instruction was divided; each had his own student or graduate assistants. With their aid Johnson completed a monograph on a human embryo of twenty-four pairs of somites, received from a Missouri physician (Carnegie Contributions, 1917). He brought back into general use Wepfer’s neglected method (dating from 1664) of shaking apart the pig’s liver into its constituent lobules (1918); and he studied their development with clearer results than Mall had been able to attain (1919). But the war was then on, practitioners were needed, salary distinctions were invidious, and Dr. Johnson began to think, in the phrase of John Brown, that Anatomy is statical, it has no feet. In 1918, he enrolled at Johns Hopkins as a student of medicine in advanced standing. He was not alone in that procedure, for his friend, Roy Hoskins, Ph.D. (Harv.), professor of physiology at Northwestern, had decided to take the same course at the same time. On occasions the erudition of these students astonished their teachers.

In Baltimore, Johnson completed What is perhaps his finest anatomical work—the models of the later development of the urethra in the male (Journal of Urology, 1920). A parallel study, “The homologue of the prostate in the female” (ibid., 1922), was in progress. He did much of the modeling at the Carnegie Laboratory, Where Dr. Streeter was impressed with his fine sense and appreciation of form, and his great energy and abilities. The models are in no way inferior to the superb Keibel series, which indeed /they continue to a later and most interesting stage.


In 1919-1920, the University of Missouri promoted him to a full professorship in anatomy, but it was too late. His M.D. was conferred on June 15, 1920. “Tomorrow,” he writes on the fifteenth, “I am going fishing down on the Severn,” and then to the New Haven Hospital as intern with Dr. Flint. There, in a staff football game, he fractured his patella, and after 7 weeks’ quiescence, Was hobbling about with cane and crutches——this being but one of several surgical incidents due to his fondness for heavy gymnastics. Later in that year came family disaster in the death of his wife after prolonged hospitalization (August 23, 1921). He had then returned to Baltimore. Resolutely, on Labor Day, he began his service as first assistant resident in urology at the Brady Institute of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. In that specialty he had found his ultimate calling, and Dr. Young invited him to remain on his staff. But Dr. Johnson had otherplans. For a place to practice urology, he considered the various States, choosing Oregon, and Portland, because there, it seemed to him, was the best fishing near a great city. On a high hill, in sight of Mt. Hood, he could build a “little house amongst the big trees.”


In September, 1923, he married Miss Juliette Omohundro, of Virginia; and in October they were established in Portland. “I am settled at last,” he writes, “have a suite of beautiful ofiices, open for business eight days now, without being disturbed by a single patient.” Thus began his successful practice. He had time to collaborate with Dr. Hugh H. Young in writing his authoritative “Practice of Urology” (2 vols., 1926). Since 1929, Dr. Johnson has been assistant clinical professor of urology in the University of Oregon. In 1933, at the Cincinnati meeting of the Anatomists, he described isolated tubules of the human testis, which he had skillfully dissected, as showing loops and arcades, with a few blind ends and diverticula. Thus (1911) he supplemented Bremer’s study of the development of the remarkable arcades by showing conclusively their arrangement in the adult. He left the session early, by airplane, to see some new operative technique. For the 9th ed. of Morris’ Anatomy, published in 1933, he wrote the section on the urogenital system (revised in the 10th ed., 1942), and he contributed also to Nelson’s Loose-Leaf Surgery (vol. 6, 1940). In 1935 he demonstrated to the American Urological Association in San Francisco a new type of snare, which he had devised, for removing ureteral calculi. The Johnson “basket” is now the most used of all snares for that purpose. A Boston surgeon remarks, “VVe have had very good success with it, which is more than we can say of any other device that has come to our notice.’ ’ Last June Dr. J ohn— son met with the Urologists in New York, full of his usual zest; but he was aware of a cardiac lesion, and said something to a friend about “the old pump.” Two weeks before his death, which occurred on February 12, 1943, he collapsed on the way home from his office. He is survived by his wife and their three daughters, who know that though his interests were wide and full, his family came first.


In many ways, as we like to think, Franklin Johnson was a typical American anatomist. In his profession he had friends from the Atlantic to the Pacific; and he repaid with compound interest all that he owed to the universities with which he was connected — Harvard, Missouri, Johns Hopkins, an.d Oregon. This is an indaequate record, but one of sincere admiration.


April 20, 1943

Frederic T. Lewis

Eliot R. Clark

Richard E. Scammon

Anatomical Publications By Franklin P. Johnson

Johnson FP. The development of the mucous membrane of the oesophagus, stomach and small intestine in the human embryo. (1910) Amer. J Anat., 10: 521-559.

Johnson FP. The development of the mucous membrane of the large intestine and vermiform process in the human embryo. (1913) Amer. J Anat., 14: 187-233.

The effects of distention of the intestine upon the shape of villi and glands. Am. J. Anat., vol. 14, pp. 235-250.

Johnson FP. A case of atresia ani in a human embryo of 26 mm. (1914) Anat. Rec., vol. 8, pp. 349-353.

Johnson FP. The development of the rectum in the human embryo. (1914) Amer. J Anat. 16(1): 1-58.

Notes on the neuromeres of the brain and spinal cord. Anat. Rec., vol. 10, pp. 209-210.

A human embryo of twenty—four pairs of somites. Embr., vol. 6, no. 19, pp. 125-168.

The isolation, shape, size, and number of the lobules of the pig ’s liver. Am. J. Anat., vol. 23, pp. 273-283.

The development of the lobule of the pig’s liver. Am. J. Anat., vol. 25, pp. 299-331.

The later development of the urethra in the male. J. of Urology, vol. 4, pp. 447-501.

The homologue of the prostate in the female. J. of Urology, vol. 8, pp. 13-33. Diverticula and cysts of the urethra. J. of Urology, vol. 10, pp. 295-310.

Young ’s Practice of Urology. “By Hugh H. Young and David M. Davis with the collaboration of Franklin P. Johnson.” Philadelphia, vol. 1, pp. 1746; vol. 2, pp. 1-738.

Urethral anomalies. J. of Urology, vol. 23, pp. 693-699.

Urogenital System. Morris’ Human Anatomy, 9th ed., Philadelphia, pp. 1347-1411; 10th ed., 1942, pp. 1421-1488.

Dissections of human seminiferous tubules. Anat. Rec., vol. 59, pp. 187-199. A new method of removing ureteral calculi. ‘J. of Urology, vol. 37, pp. 84-89. Surgery of the urethra and penis. Nelson Loose-Leaf Surgery, vol. 6. New York, pp. 1-98 B.

Compromise cloure of bladder in suprapubie prostatectomy. J. of Urology, vol. 49, pp. 377-381.



Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2019, March 23) Embryology Embryology History - Franklin Paradise Johnson. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Embryology_History_-_Franklin_Paradise_Johnson

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