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
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