Frederick Carl Neidhardt

Neidhardt—Frederick Carl Neidhardt, 85, on October 7, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz., of injuries from a fall following a long neurodegenerative illness. Fred was born on May 12, 1931, in Philadelphia, Pa., to Carrie Fry and Adam Fred Neidhardt, and attended public elementary and high school there. Confirmed as a Presbyterian to please his maternal grandmother, from an early age he was troubled by what he saw as the conflict between science and the attempts of Christian myths and theology to explain the natural world. He suffered a crisis in his young adulthood, afterward taking solace in existentialist philosophers, modern Christian theologians, and the biography and ideas of Ishi (the last known Yahi Indian survivor, who had lived alone in the woods for 50 years before walking into a California town), including honesty, loyalty, self-sufficiency, and the distinction between knowledge and wisdom.

Fred received a bachelor’s in biology from Kenyon College and a doctorate in bacteriology from Harvard University. He married Elizabeth Robinson, called Tish, in 1956. He continued to go to the Presbyterian church, where he taught Sunday school. He and Elizabeth divorced in 1977, and he later married Germaine Chipault, called Geri.

As a research professor at University of Michigan, he became the Medical School’s Frederick G. Novy Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of microbiology and immunology, researching gene regulation and bacterial growth’s molecular physiology. He was the first scientist to use temperature-sensitive mutants to analyze bacterial physiology’s gene regulation, and he is credited with establishing the field of microbial proteomics. He was editor-in-chief of EcoSal, a web resource for information about the cellular and molecular biology of Escherichia coli, the most studied cell in biology.

A gifted administrator as well as researcher, he served as the chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, as associate dean for the Medical School faculty, and as University of Michigan’s vice president for research. He recruited women and minorities to the faculty and facilitated a mentorship system for junior faculty, earning many microbiology leadership awards and honors, which he regarded as mementos of a joyful career in science.

At times, he considered himself an atheist. For over 30 years, albeit with reservations, he worshiped as an Episcopalian and became part of that community. He credited Geri and their son for his renewed interest in his spiritual life. But he read the Book of Common Prayer critically and “threw out all except one and a half” of the Thirty-nine Articles of Faith.

After Geri died in 2006, reflection led to his finding that he could develop his ethical insight and sense of the numinous free from intellectual restrictions in the company of Quakers. He started a journey of spirituality, humanistic ethics, and social concern, starting to attend Ann Arbor (Mich.) Meeting in the spring of 2006 and joining in 2007. He served on the Peace and Social Concerns and Environment and Social Concerns Committees.

He transferred his membership to Pima Meeting in Tucson in 2009 and served on the Peace and Social Concerns, Nominating, and Membership and Marriage Committees. His testimony against torture led him to work with American Friends Service Committee in Arizona against torture and solitary confinement, to convince Pima Meeting to join the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), and to represent the meeting on the NRCAT Participating Members Council. His ready wit, good humor, and sense of ethics and compassion touched all who knew him.

Fred’s second wife, Germaine Chipault, died before him. He is survived by his first wife, Elizabeth Robinson Neidhardt; three children, Jane Neidhardt, Richard Neidhardt, and Marc Chipault; and a sister, Carol Karsner.

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