Francis Carlson, 77, biophysics professor


Francis Dewey Carlson, an internationally known professor of biophysics at the Johns Hopkins University, died Feb. 4 of complications from pneumonia at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He was 77 and lived in Mount Washington.

"Spike" Carlson joined the Hopkins faculty in 1949 and was chairman of the biophysics department from 1954 to 1972, when he retired because of failing eyesight.

But Johns Hopkins Hospital's Low Vision Clinic arranged for him to use a television monitor to read enlarged type so that be could continue reading and supervising the research of graduate students. He retired again in 1992.

Dr. Warner Love, professor of biophysics at Hopkins and a friend for 50 years, said Dr. Carlson began efforts to improve the biophysics department in 1956. He recruited strong faculty and students and the department became a leader in the fields of structural determination and molecular genetics.

Dr. Carlson "was internationally known for his work in the area of muscle study, which characterized how muscles worked and the difference when normal muscles were diseased," said Dr. Eaton E. Lattman, professor and chairman of the department of biophysics at Hopkins.

"He was the first to use, during the 1960s and 1970s, laser-light scattering techniques that studied the movement of protean molecules in solution, and he was able to measure how fast they moved and changed with the frequency of the light," Dr. Lattman said.

From 1961 to 1962, Dr. Carlson completed a sabbatical at University College in London, where he did research on the thermochemical basis of muscle contraction. He and Douglas Wilkie, a professor there, wrote "Muscle Physiology."

Dr. Carlson taught summers at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., where he conducted research on the nervous system of the squid. He also served as a trustee of the laboratory.

Dr. Carlson was born in Syracuse, N.Y., and raised in Ossining, N.Y. He earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Hopkins in 1942.

He earned a doctorate in biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1949, the year he returned to Hopkins as a post-doctoral fellow.

Plans for a memorial service at Hopkins were incomplete last night.

He is survived by his wife, the former Carolyn Mullins Stout, whom he married in 1950; three sons, Dr. Nils Carlson of Danville, Calif., Kirk Carlson of Ruxton and Chris Carlson of Annandale, Va.; and four grandchildren.

Pub Date: 2/11/99

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