John Swanson was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on October 12, 1917. He received his B.A. in physical chemistry in 1940 and a Ph.D. (Hon.) in 1972, both from Morningside College. He also received a M.S. (Hon.) degree from Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin in 1982.
Swanson worked as a graduate student in Iowa State College from 1940-1941. He married his high school sweetheart, Joyce Weed, and moved to the Institute of Paper Chemistry (IPC), Appleton, Wisconsin where he worked from 1941 until his retirement in 1982. From 1945-46 he was also a lecturer in chemistry at Lawrence College (now University).
Swanson joined IPC as Technical Assistant in 1941 and quickly rose to become group leader of surface and colloid chemistry (1953); Group Leader in Physical Chemistry (1956); Chairman Physical Chemistry Section (1964) and was Director, Division of Natural Materials and Systems (from 1969 until his retirement in 1982). He was involved in teaching, research, and consultation, and excelled in all three.
Swanson made his greatest contributions as an educator. His surface-science and colloid-chemistry courses were rated highly by students for their practical applications of chemical principles. At one point he was so successful in attracting students to work under his direction that the faculty at IPC adapted a rule that limited the number of MS students any one professor could advise to two per year.
During his tenure at IPC, Swanson guided at least 30 Ph.D. students; many more Masters students; published over 60 technical papers; over 200 technical reports; TAPPI monograph on internal sizing; chapters in books and gave invited lectures in USA and many countries abroad. His IPC lecture notes, “Colloid Chemistry in Papermaking Materials” were published as a book under his name in 2003, compiled and edited by his ex-student Prof. Gerard Ring.
In 1972 Swanson was named Outstanding Educator of America. He was elected TAPPI Fellow in 1973 and received 1974 TAPPI’s Research and Development Division Award. He has 11 patents to his credit.
Swanson died on August 4, 2004 at the age of 86 in Green Valley, Arizona. He was preceded in death by his wife Joyce, who died in 1992.