Feb. 15, 1999
VOL. 28, NO. 22

"Spike" Carlson, Former Chairman
of Biophysics Department, Dies at 77

By Gary Dorsey

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition
One of Hopkins' distinguished pioneers in biophysics, professor emeritus Francis Dewey Carlson, died Feb. 4 at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital. He was 77.

Affectionately known by a nickname penned to him as a freshman at Hopkins in 1938, "Spike" Carlson led the Biophysics Department as its chairman for 18 years, from 1954 to 1972, and continued working with graduate students even after his retirement in 1992.

Under his leadership, the department recruited a strong faculty in the emerging fields of structural determination and molecular genetics. Personally, he pioneered research in oxygen consumption in nerves, muscle contraction and the application of laser light scattering techniques to molecular biophysics.

Remarkably, Carlson served the last 20 years at Hopkins restricted by a significant and progressive loss of eyesight. Using computer-based tools developed for the vision impaired, he continued his scientific studies and impressed members of the vision clinic at Hopkins Hospital as one of the most prolific readers on their video reading systems.

Carlson suffered a severe stroke in 1995, and his health declined. He was admitted to the hospital suffering from pneumonia on Christmas Day 1998 and died six weeks later.

He is survived by his wife, Carolyn Mullins Carlson, and three sons and their families: Nils and Diane Carlson of Danville, Calif.; Chris and Laurel Carlson and their children, Kari and Adam, of Annandale, Va.; and Kirk and Robin Carlson and their children, Eve and Eric, of Baltimore.

A service commemorating Carlson's life will be held Tuesday, March 2, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Garrett Room of MSEL, followed by a reception at the Hopkins Club. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.