Frederick Carl Neidhardt

Date of Birth

May 12th, 1931

Date of Death

October 7th, 2016

Memorial Meeting

Pima Monthly Meeting


Frederick Carl Neidhardt was born on May 12, 1931 to Adam Fred Neidhardt and Carrie (Fry) Neidhardt and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Fred enjoyed a long and distinguished career in academic science, driven by his interest in the study of life. He completed his precollegiate studies in public schools, crediting strong public support for public education with preparing him for an academic career. He received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Kenyon College and a Ph.D. in bacteriology from Harvard University. He spent most of his career as a research professor at the University of Michigan, becoming the Frederick G. Novy Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Immunology in the University of Michigan Medical School.

His research focused on gene regulation and the molecular physiology of bacterial growth. He was the first scientist to employ temperature-sensitive mutants in essential functions to analyze gene regulation in studies of bacterial physiology, and he is credited with establishing the field of microbial proteomics. He served as editor-in-chief of a treatise on the cellular and molecular biology of Escherichia coli, the most studied cell in biology, which is commonly known as “EcoSal”.

He discovered that his gift and calling to service and administration matched his gift for research. He served for fifteen years, beginning in 1970, as the fourth chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and he went on to serve as associate dean for faculty of the Medical School and then as University of Michigan’s vice president for research. In these roles, he fostered the recruitment of women and minorities to the faculty and facilitated the development of a mentorship system for junior faculty. Fred’s leadership in microbiology was recognized with numerous awards and honors, but he regarded them as of no account except as mementos of the joy of a career in science.

Fred married Elizabeth (Tish) Robinson in 1956, and the couple had two children, Jane Neidhardt and Richard Neidhardt. Fred and Elizabeth divorced in September 1977. Fred later married Germaine (Geri) Chipault, a clinical social worker who taught peer conflict management to teachers and students in grade schools in Ann Arbor and elsewhere in Michigan, and the couple had one son, Marc Chipault.

Fred was raised in the Presbyterian tradition. He was confirmed in the Presbyterian church out of a desire to please his maternal grandmother, and he participated in the Presbyterian church and taught Sunday school there while married to Elizabeth. Nevertheless, from an early age he was deeply troubled by the conflict he perceived between scientific knowledge, traditional Christian myths, and Christian theology’s attempts to explain the natural world. This led to an existential crisis in his young adulthood. He took solace in existentialist philosophers, modern Christian theologians, and the biography of Ishi, the last known survivor of the Yahi Indian genocide in California, who had lived alone in the wilderness area north and east of San Francisco for years before coming to a small town north of San Francisco in 1911. Fred took to heart Ishi’s testimony to the values of honesty, loyalty, and self-sufficiency, which the surrounding culture appeared to have lost, and Ishi’s observation of the lack of wisdom despite abundance of knowledge in American non-Native culture.

At times, Fred considered himself an atheist. For over thirty years, albeit with reservations, Fred worshiped at St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor and became part of that community. He gave his second wife Geri and his son Marc much credit for his renewed interest in his spiritual life. However, he read the Book of Common Prayer critically and, of the Thirtynine Articles of Faith in the book, “threw out all except one and a half.”

After the death of his wife Geri, he undertook a period of deep reflection. The result was a leading to join the Religious Society of Friends. He found the Quakers to be a spiritual home where he could develop his ethical insight and sense of the numinous free from intellectual restrictions, and in their company he began to travel a journey of spirituality, humanistic ethics, and social concern. He began attending Ann Arbor Friends Meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the spring of 2006, and was welcomed into membership on March 18, 2007. He served on their Peace and Social Concerns and Environment and Social Concerns Committees.

He transferred his membership to Pima Friends Meeting on February 15, 2009. While there, his gifts came into full force. He served on the Peace and Social Concerns, Nominating, and

Membership and Marriage Committees of Pima Monthly Meeting. He bore a particular testimony against torture, which led him to work with the American Friends Service Committee in Arizona against torture and solitary confinement, to convince Pima Friends Meeting to join the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), and to serve on the NRCAT Participating Members Council as Pima Meeting’s representative.

Frederick Neidhardt died October 7, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona of injuries from a fall following a long period of neurodegenerative illness. His first wife and all of his children survive him, as does his sister Carol Karsner. His second wife preceded him in death on January 23, 2006. A celebration of his life was held at Academy Village on October 11, 2016. His ready wit, good humor, and sense of ethics and compassion touched all who knew him. He will be missed tremendously.