Carl J. Johnson

Carl J. Johnson
Carl J. Johnson

Entrepreneur and Co-Founder, Chairman, Director and Former CEO of II-VI, Inc.; Innovator in infrared optical materials, and the growth of II-VI compound semiconductor crystals and other optical, laser, and electronic materials.

When Carl J. Johnson completed his graduate work at the University of Illinois in 1969, he knew that the ledgling CO2 laser industry was in need of something better than NaCl (rock salt) for use in the infrared lenses, windows, mirrors, and beam-splitters that would enable laser powers to evolve from a few hundred watts to the multikilowatt level that would enable large-scale industrial deployment.

It took a couple of years for that idea to culminate in the founding of II-VI Incorporated. But in mid-1971, at the age of 29, Johnson left his position in an established industrial enterprise to co-found a company that 18 months later would introduce commercially-available, II-VI compoundbased infrared-optical materials and devices to the CO2 laser marketplace.

II-VI Incorporated, which literally started with “two guys in a garage”—having no equipment, no products, no customers, and no sales—has steadily grown into a public company having thousands of customers worldwide, over 6,000 employees at 27 locations in 13 countries and annual sales of greater than $500 million dollars. The core capabilities upon which the company has been built include the crystal growth of II-VI compound semiconductor and other laser, optical, or electronic materials and the fabrication and inishing of reliable, affordable, high-technology parts for which there is a worldwide commercial demand. Johnson served as the company’s Principal Executive Officer for 36 years.

Since his retirement as an employee at II-VI Incorporated in 2010, he has continued as Chairman of the Board and served the company and its eight business units in various advisory roles. Johnson and his wife, Margot, are the founders and financial contributors to two charitable foundations: The II-VI Foundation, with its mission to identify talented young people having a propensity for science, mathematics and technology, and to nurture and support them in the pursuit of an engineering or science education through their BS, MS or PHD experiences; and, the Johnson Foundation, with its commitment to high-value educational, cultural, and Christian Mission initiatives and projects.

Johnson credits his interest in laser technology to having taken the first-ever “Laser Physics” course taught at Purdue University, to his “ElectroOptic (EO) Modulation” master’s thesis work at MIT, and to the culmination of his laser-based education in Professor Paul Coleman’s ElectroPhysics Laboratory at Illinois. As part of that work, Johnson observed and documented EO modulation at the far-infrared, water-vapor-laser wavelengths of 28 and 118 microns before the scientists at Hughes Research Laboratories (at the suggestion of Johnson and Coleman) demonstrated this effect at the 10.6 micron, CO2 laser wavelength.

Important to his preparation for a career in a technology-based business, Johnson served as a Member of Technical Staff at the Bell Telephone Laboratories for two years and as the Coordinator of Research and Development for Essex International (later a division of United Technologies) for five years.


PhD Electrical Engineering, 1969