Vale Newell Johnson CMG, FMedSci

Emeritus Professor Newell Johnson

A world leader in the field of oral health, Newell Johnson CMG, FMedSci held the esteemed titles of Emeritus Professor of Oral Health Sciences at King’s College London, while also serving as Honorary Professor of Dental Research at Griffith University.

A lifelong educator and researcher, Professor Emeritus Johnson passed away in late January 2024 at the age of 85.

Graduating with a Masters in Dentistry from University of Melbourne in 1963, Professor Emeritus Johnson obtained his PhD in Dental Science from Bristol University in 1967. He joined King’s College London in 1993 after significant contributions to London Hospital Medical College and the Royal College of Surgeons England as an educator of undergraduate and postgraduate students.

After retiring from King’s in 2005, he became Foundation Dean/Head of School of Dentistry & Oral Health at Griffith University. Additionally, he served as Professor of Dental Research holding various positions at the university until recently.

Throughout his storied career, Professor Emeritus Johnson earned numerous accolades including distinguished awards from the International Association for Dental Research and the British Dental Association. He was honored with the John Tomes Medal and appointed as a Companion of the Most Excellent Order of St Michael and St George by Queen Elizabeth II (CMG) for his outstanding contributions to oral and public health.

In 2019, he received the Global Oral Health Research Award from the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) for his research in the field of oral health.

As a dedicated educator, Newell supervised many successful PhD students and in research, he left a lasting impact on the field through his extensive publications on dental caries, periodontal diseases, and tropical diseases affecting oral health, and oral cancer.

His research focused on studying diseases that affect the mouth, head, and neck including common problems such as tooth decay and gum disease, as well as more serious conditions such as cancer and HIV/AIDS.

He carried out field research in cities, rural and remote areas around the world, in countries including Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Philippines and Colombia.

Current Dean of Dentistry at Griffith University Professor Nigel Robb said Professor Emeritus Johnson had a remarkable career in oral health research for nearly 60 years.

“He was a prolific researcher boasting an H-Index of 75 with his research cited more than 35 thousand times which is just about unheard of in academic circles. He was truly an outstanding leader in the discipline of oral health and research.”

Professor Emeritus Johnson is survived by his first wife Pauline, his daughters Sarah and Nicola, their partners Luke and Murray, and his grandchildren Reuben, India, and Aurora. His second wife Jeannette passed away in 2016.

His loss is deeply felt by the academic community as he was not only a brilliant scholar and mentor but also a cherished friend to many.

Memorial services for Professor Emeritus Johnson were held in Brisbane in late February.