Dr. Irving Johnson, who led the commercial production of insulin with recombinant DNA technology at Eli Lilly, earned his doctorate in developmental biology in 1953 from KU. Johnson served as an assistant instructor in embryology, parasitology and general zoology from 1948 to 1950. He was a leading scientist in the pharmaceutical industry for 35 years and concluded his career as Vice President of Research for Eli Lilly in 1988. Johnson has published over 90 articles and served as an independent research consultant.
Johnson is a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II. He was a member of the U.S. delegation of the National Science Foundation that reviewed the biological effect of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1984, he was the recipient of the first annual Congressional Award in Science and Technology.