Deep fears for America’s competitiveness as Russell Johnson, “The Professor” on Gilligan’s Island, dies at 89

17 Jan

SEATTLE—concern over America’s scientific and engineering capabilities grew today as Russell Johnson, better known as “The Professor” on Gilligan’s Island, died yesterday at age 89.

The cause was a falling coconut, family members reported.

Johnson was well-known for his pioneering ability to build sophisticated telecommunications products using only items commonly found on desert islands. After developing a series of radio receivers out of palm fronds in the 1960s, he went on to develop a range of mobile devices using fish parts, rocks, and native vegetation.

Working before the rise of the venture-capital industry, Johnson’s many startups were funded primarily by longtime friend and neighbor Thurston Howell III, who made a second fortune commercializing Johnson’s many inventions.

Although Johnson had been less active in recent years, he said recently that he felt vindicated to learn that his signature “clamshell” phone was experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

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