He was educated at Barrow Grammar School Johnson and then he received his further education at the Manchester Municipal College of Technology (now The University of Manchester), in 1944 and his MSc (Tech) in 1947. After graduation Johnson spent five years in the aircraft industry working in vibration and propeller research for Rotol Ltd.
In 1954 he moved to Cambridge University, where he has remained and was appointed Professor of Engineering in 1977.
In 1982 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Frictionless and frictional contact of unlubricated deformable bodies
Johnson has made outstanding contributions to tribology, particularly in the field of contact mechanics. He is renowned for his work in the field of frictionless and frictional contact of unlubricated deformable bodies. From 1958 to 1964 he conducted experiments on rolling contact with creep and spin. The experiments were of such excellence they have never been surpassed.
Spin effect in rolling contact
He also discovered the spin effect in rolling contact. Professor Johnson's experiments have influenced the theoretical-numerical work in this area, as they provide the indispensable background of experience which is so necessary for the theoretician. His work his characterised by elegant experiments, skilful analyses and insightful explanations of observed phenomena.
In 2006 Kenneth L. Johnson received The Timoshenko Medal of the American Scociety of Mechanical Engineers for his pioneering research in the area of contact and adhesive mechanics. His innovative experiments demonstrating the research and his contributions to the understanding and practical solutions related to issues pertinent to the railroad industry.
Johnson at Manchester
Kenneth Johnson studied at the University of Manchester, then known as the Manchester College of Technology and later as the University of Manchester Institute for Science and Technology (UMIST), where in 1944 he received his Bachelor's degree, his Master's degree in 1948 and the PhD in 1954. Later on he took up the appointment of Assistant Lecturer.
It was his time here that marked the beginning of his interest in contact mechanics and where he obtained his PhD for his research project on "Surface Interactions between Elastically Loaded Bodies under Tangential Forces".
In 2003 Kenneth L. Johnson received Royal Medal for his outstanding work in the field of contact mechanics. ASMEPhoto courtesy of The Royal Society.