Russell Johnson, most famous for playing The Professor on Gilligan's Island, passed away today at age 89, from kidney failure.
An inspiration to generations of would-be scientists, Johnson had insisted that his character, Roy Hinkley, a science teacher, should make only accurate scientific statements. This did not avoid his confusing a vampire bat for a fruit bat, or allow him to notice that vampire bats aren't even native to the Hawaiian Islands. Still, The Professor could build a radio from a couple of coconuts and a paper clip long before MacGyver was even a twinkle in Mr. MacGyver's eye.
Johnson was often cast as scientists, appearing as the ill-fated Steve Carlson in "This Island Earth," among other movies. He also played in numerous Westerns and crime dramas.
He served in the United States Air Force during World War II, earning a Purple Heart after his plane was shot down in the Philippines. He was also awarded the Air Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, with three service stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one service star, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged with the rank of frst lieutenant on November 22, 1945. He used his GI Bill funds to attend acting school.
Johnson's passing leaves Dawn Wells and Tina Louise as the last surviving members of the Gilligan's Island cast.
"I was at a speaking engagement for MIT... and I said ... the Professor has all sorts of degrees, including one from this very institution [MIT]! And that's why I can make a radio out of a coconut, and not fix a hole in a boat!" --Russell Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Gilligan's Island, November 10, 1924 – January 16, 2014