Tony Johnson, who died suddenly on August 19th, 2022, aged 79, will be greatly missed by many who had the privilege to know him as a colleague during his many years in the MRC Biostatistics Unit. For many years, Tony’s smiling face provided a warm welcome to folk as they joined the Unit and he was always interested in and supportive of Unit members and their work. He developed many close friendships in the Unit over the years and time with Tony in the tea room produced many enjoyable conversations on topics such as classical music, his beloved Liverpool football team, Formula 1 and, of course, medical statistics, past and current!
In 1973, Anthony Leonard Johnson, “Tony”, joined the MRC Statistical Research and Services Unit, which was renamed the MRC Biostatistics Unit in 1980. He was a member until his retirement and retained close ties with the Unit, and also with the MRC Clinical Trials Unit in which he took up a part-time appointment in 2002, until his death. Tony worked in the area of neuropsychiatry and on the epidemiology and treatment of epilepsy, for which he was recognized with a Lifetime Service Award in 2005. He served the statistical research community broadly through his work on scientific committees and, most notably, through his role as one of the three founding Editors of the journal Statistics in Medicine. Tony was the longest serving of these pioneers, stepping down after 18 years of tireless work, during which he supported many authors in the effective publication of their work. The journal published 381 pages in its first year and 3,548 in the year that Tony stepped down!
It was my privilege and very great pleasure to work with Tony in recent years on a series of historical studies of the development of medical statistics in the UK, primarily during the first half of the last century. What a joy that was and, throughout his career, many other collaborators, in and outside of the Unit, found joy in working with Tony and benefitting from his enthusiasm and personal support.
Tony was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1959 and advised “to expect a short horizon”. Undeterred, in 2019, he was awarded the RD Lawrence Medal as a 60-year survivor with Type 1 diabetes. As with his 50 year medal, Tony wanted this “to be seen as a signal to young people, especially teenagers, that with good advice and care, it is possible to lead a worthwhile and comparatively normal life with diabetes”.
To Tony’s wife Frances, and his children and grandchildren, the Unit extends our deepest sympathies as they, and we, grieve the loss of a very special man.
Written by Vern Farewell