For his conduct of numerous oceanographic expeditions, his investigations of the life of eels, and the investigations of numerous problems connected with fishes, among which may be mentioned his work on fish genetics and geographic variation.
For his studies of the Gulf stream system, for his leadership in the development of a general program of the physical oceanography of the North Atlantic, and for his distinctive direction of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution both in times of peace and war.
For his contributions to oceanography, particularly by his invention of an apparatus for the determination of gravity at sea, by making many measurements of gravity over each of the great oceans, and by the utilization of these observations in interpreting the physical properties and behavior of the Earth's crust.
For his leadership in investigations of the complex chemistry of the ocean, with special attention to the waters of the north-east Pacific, Puget Sound, and San Juan Archipelago, and the Bering and Chukchi Seas.
For his distinguished contributions in tidal surveys. His projects have made available to oceanographers accurate, long-period records for large areas where previously very little observational data were available. The program and work which he has originated ultimately will produce reliable conclusions on present-day tectonic processes and the rate of change in the quantity of water in the ocean.
For his outstanding leadership in biological and general oceanography. Among Dr. Johnson's contributions are explanations for two newly discovered acoustic phenomena in the sea. These explanations brought biologist and physicists together in a common interest, and introduced underwater acoustics as a prime tool for marine ecology
For fundamental contributions to the understanding of the oceanic general circulation of abyssal and thermocline waters and for providing the intellectual underpinning for our understanding of ENSO (El Niño).
For leadership in establishing multi-disciplinary ocean-observing systems, for detection of decadal regime shifts in pelagic ecosystems, and for paradigm-shifting insights on biogeochemical cycles in the ocean.