May 22, 1947 – September 6, 2019 John Edward Atkinson was known for his quiet intellect; his remarkable scientific and engineering proclivities; his witty sense of humor; and his passion for flying, travel, classical music, good food, and English beer. John was born in Grappenhall, Cheshire, and grew up in nearby High Legh, a rural community between Manchester and Liverpool. He and his older sister lived with their parents in the same house in which their father and grandfather had lived, surrounded by orchards, vegetable gardens, and beehives. After completing his formal education at Leicester University, he moved to London and began working at Thorn Electrical Industries, which later merged with EMI to become Thorn EMI.
In 1983, John immigrated to Silicon Valley and continued his engineering career in electronics, first at Elcon and then at Varian Associates. In 1995, Varian’s Electronic Device Business became Communication and Power Industries (CPI). During his tenure at Varian and later at CPI, John became a Senior Engineer and coauthored many papers. He designed intricate components for advanced microwave amplifiers used in a range of applications, from cancer radiation therapy to high-frequency defense sensors. Most recently, he was the go-to expert for a key component of a Varian system for cancer radiotherapy, and the Varian equipment systems to which he contributed are now used to treat over 100,000 cancer patients daily at clinics, universities, and hospitals worldwide. In 1985, John achieved his lifetime goal of becoming a private pilot. He joined a flying club and flew primarily out of Palo Alto Airport, first in gliders and later in Cessna 152s and 172 RGs, and his friend Bob Claypool’s 182. He obtained both an instrument rating and a commercial rating. Yet another avocation of John’s was international folk dancing. In a recreational folk dance class held at Stanford, he met his future wife Gina in 1989. They were married on the island of Kauai in 1993. They continued folk dancing classes for many years and enjoyed New Year’s Eve folk dance parties. John and Gina also loved travel and took rewarding trips to the British Isles and elsewhere. Tragically, John was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma in August 2017. From then on, he displayed phenomenal courage and strength in battling this rare but aggressive cancer, participating in two clinical trials and three chemotherapies – always ready to bravely try another treatment that might hold the promise of improvement, no matter how grueling. On September 6, 2019, John passed away at home holding Gina’s hand, having witnessed their daughter Laurel’s marriage in a private ceremony just days before. He is survived by Gina, Laurel, and his son-in-law Andrew. A celebration of John’s life will be held on Saturday, September 28, 2:00 pm, at Spangler Mortuary, 399 South San Antonio Road, Los Altos. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to the charity of your choice. We are grateful that John is well at last, and we like to picture him enjoying what he loved most – “See you in the clouds, John.”