JOHNSON, ARTHUR JUKES, physician and coroner; b. 20 Aug. 1848 in Yorkville (Toronto), son of William Arthur Johnson* and Laura Eliza Jukes; m. 14 July 1887 Sophia Maud Elliot Widder in Goderich, Ont., and they had two sons and a daughter; d. 9 June 1921 in Toronto.
Born in Yorkville while his father was a divinity student, Jukes Johnson spent most of his childhood years moving between Cobourg, Yorkville, and eventually Weston (Toronto), where W. A. Johnson was named rector of St Philip’s Church in 1856. His grandfathers had known each other in India, and both his parents had been born there. Lieutenant-Colonel John Johnson was an officer in the East India Company who held the position of aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington before emigrating to the Niagara District of Upper Canada in the 1830s; Dr Arthur Jukes served as an inspector of hospitals in India.
Johnson received his early education at Toronto’s Model Grammar School and then at Trinity College School in Weston, which had been founded by his father. After attending Trinity College, Toronto, in 1866-67, probably enrolled in the arts program, Johnson turned to the study of medicine. He was most likely influenced by the example of his grandfather Jukes and by his own father’s novice practice in the field. W. A. Johnson had studied some medicine at Guy’s Hospital in London, England, and was medical adviser to his Weston church community.
Johnson graduated from the University of Toronto with an mb in 1870. He would receive a second mb, ad eundem, from Trinity in 1892. Following graduation, he spent about two years in Britain, where his mother’s brothers were physicians. He took up postgraduate work and in 1871 was awarded membership in the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He worked as a surgeon at St Thomas’s Hospital in London. Johnson would become a member of the Pathological Society of London and a fellow of the Obstetrical Society of London and the Royal Microscopical Society.
After returning to Toronto in 1873, Johnson registered with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and established a practice at 1 William Street (Yorkville Avenue). Two years later he became a coroner for York County. He was soon associated with the leading medical men of Toronto, including James Bovell*, Edward Mulberry Hodder*, and Cornelius James Philbrick, with whom, an obituary would state, he was “practically, if not actually, in partnership.” By 1885 he had built a combined house and office at 52 Bloor Street West in Toronto, where he would live until his death.
Johnson had taken a keen interest in pathology when he returned to Canada and worked for some time as a pathologist at Toronto General Hospital. His expert knowledge in medical jurisprudence, coroner’s experience, and reputation as being an independent in politics would lead to his appointment by the province as the first chief coroner of Toronto in June 1903. In this position Johnson’s duties were to supervise 30 associate coroners and to decide when there was to be an investigation into a death in the city. He headed inquests into fatalities resulting from train, car, and streetcar accidents or mishaps in the workplace, as well as deaths involving criminal action, and he had the power to issue arrest warrants.
As a coroner, Johnson provided evidence for the crown in many criminal trials in the Toronto area and throughout the province. He was involved in 1890 in the Reginald Birchall* case, prosecuted by Britton Bath Osler*, brother of Johnson’s former schoolmate and fellow doctor William Osler*. In the famed Hyams brothers case of 1895-96 he contributed again as part of Osler’s prosecution team. The case revolved around the body of young William Chinook (Willie) Wells, who had died, apparently from an industrial accident, in 1893. Wells’s body was exhumed under orders from a Toronto coroner in 1895 when his sister revealed that a large insurance policy on her brother had been made out to her by her husband, Harry Place Hyams. Re-examination of the skull by Johnson and others brought Harry and his brother Dallas Theodore to trial on murder charges. Johnson was a witness for the prosecution, but the Hyamses were discharged in the end. In another case prosecuted by Osler, Olive Adele Sternaman was accused in 1897 of administering arsenic to her second husband, George H. Sternaman. Johnson, an expert in poisons, was the chief medical witness, heading the prosecution’s team of five doctors. Sternaman was convicted of murder, but acquitted the following year on appeal.
Johnson had a strong ideal of community service and was for many years an active member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, sitting on its council in 1890-95 and 1903-21 and acting on the printing, education, registration, complaints, and property committees. He was also a consulting surgeon to Toronto General, St John’s, and St Michael’s hospitals. His academic contributions included service as a lecturer and examiner at Trinity College and Toronto General, membership on the board of governors of Trinity College School (1902-21), and a book, Inquests and investigations: a practical guide for the use of coroners holding inquests in Ontario . . . (Toronto, 1911). Jukes Johnson died of pancreatic cancer in June 1921 at his home in Toronto. A member of St Thomas’s Anglican Church, he was buried in St James’ Cemetery. In his will he left $5,000 to establish a hospital at Trinity College School as a memorial to his father.
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