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NIH Record


Morris Johnson Retires After 40 Years

After 42 years of government service, Morris Johnson retired from the Division of Safety on Aug. 1. He spent 2 years in the Army, and then, on Feb. 19, 1957, he began the first of his 40 years at NIH, working primarily in the field of occupational safety and health.

Morris Johnson

Johnson spent his early career at NIH as a medical biology technician for the Division of Research Services' animal hospital section, which was responsible for delivering nonhuman primates to the institutes for research. Workers there performed health status checks, gave vaccinations and tattooed the animals before delivery. After almost 2 years, Johnson transferred to NIMH's section on general physiology, where he continued as a biology technician working with nonhuman primates. Four years later, after a reorganization of NIMH, he transferred to the Division of Research Services' newly formed Environmental Services Branch, where he worked in the engineering section.

He worked with Edwin M. Lamphere to develop the first gnotobiotic units, which were used to develop the first special pathogen-free animals at NIH. Sterile air was supplied under positive pressure to the enclosures and the animals were raised inside the sterile environment. It took numerous generations and meticulous work to develop these pathogen-free animals, some strains of which are still in use.

The Environmental Services Branch became, in 1979, the Occupational Safety and Health Branch of the Division of Safety. Throughout his career, Johnson was involved in assuring a safe and healthful working environment for everyone at NIH. He worked at the NIH Animal Center in Poolesville, where he monitored, sampled and inspected the sewage treatment plant, wells, and creek for water quality. He sampled for environmental pollutants, ran the safety shoe and safety eyeglasses program, conducted pest control efforts, provided personal sampling for exposure to chemicals and most recently supervised the asbestos abatement program.

Johnson received the NIH Merit Award in 1990 and the NIH Director's Award in 1994 for his dedicated work on asbestos abatement. He was chairman of the human relations and training committee for Environmental Safety Branch employees and was also a member of the Division of Safety's EEO committee for 3 years.

Johnson was born in Summerton, S.C., and spent his youth working on his parents' farms in Summerton and Santee. After retirement he will continue to reside in Washington, D.C., with his wife Dorothy. They have a son who lives in Alexandria, Va., and a daughter who lives in Washington. Johnson plans many trips back to Santee and has his fishing pole ready to go.

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