If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Harold (Hal) Johnston

by Susan J. Ainsworth
February 25, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 8

Harold (Hal) Johnston, 92, a pioneering atmospheric chemist and professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, died on Oct. 20, 2012.

Born in Woodstock, Ga., Johnston earned an A.B. in chemistry from Emory University in 1941. The following year, after beginning graduate studies at California Institute of Technology, he joined a secret war project at the institute that involved laboratory and fieldwork on defense against possible new war gases. He completed a Ph.D. in chemistry at Caltech in 1948.

Johnston began his academic career in Stanford University’s chemistry department, remaining there until 1956. After a one-year stint on the Caltech faculty, he moved to UC Berkeley, where he would remain as a professor of chemistry until his retirement in 1991. Johnston was dean of the College of Chemistry from 1966 to 1970. He conducted groundbreaking research that linked nitrogen oxides emitted by jet aircraft to destruction of Earth’s protective ozone layer.

In 2003, he published a book about his experience on the Caltech war gases project, “A Bridge Not Attacked: Chemical Warfare Civilian Research during World War II.”

Johnston received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science in 1997, the American Geophysical Union’s Roger Revelle Medal in 1998, and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1983.

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1965 and to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1972. He was also an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1950.

Johnston is survived by his wife of 64 years, Mary Ella; daughters, Shirley Johnston Anderson, Linda Banster, and Barbara Schubert; son, David; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Obituary notices of no more than 300 words may be sent to Susan J. Ainsworth at ­ and should include an educational and professional history.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.