Henry Lewis Stadler

March 23 1923 - July 22 2008

The friends and family of Henry Lewis Stadler will gather in Berkeley, CA on August 2 to remember a man who touched us all very deeply.  Henry died suddenly last week at the age of 85 after a brief pneumonia episode.  Even last week he was doing what he loved – working – to better understand the potential of algae for energy production.
Henry grew up in Columbia, Missouri, the second of six children of Cornelia and Lewis J. Stadler, a famous corn geneticist and professor.  Henry's academic career began inauspiciously; his father once promised to reward him if he could exceed a B- average in high school.  At some point, however, he turned things around, going on to Cal Tech and then Harvard after the war.  After completing his PhD in nuclear physics at the University of Chicago in 1954, Henry began his career at Bell Labs in New Jersey.  His research into ferroelectric materials continued on and off for many years, but it was through his interest in applied engineering that he ultimately made his mark.  In the 50s and 60s Henry worked at the research laboratories of Ford Motor Company, moving from basic research into engine design for fuel economy.  After designing the first hybrid van in the 70s – a car that was never produced commercially – Henry left Ford to join the Carter Administration as the Director of Transportation Systems in the Department of Energy.  At this point his interests expanded to include a wide range of engine designs, from Stirlings to turbines, which he continued to research after joining the Jet Propulsion Lab at Cal Tech.
After he officially retired and moved to Berkeley, Henry continued to pursue his research interests at Lawrence Berkeley labs, where he will be remembered as the man in the bicycle helmet who showed up for lectures from foreign policy to differential equations.  At the age of 80, Henry joined some of his colleagues from Ford and DOE to build a new type of hybrid, using a spring and compressed air to store energy instead of a battery.  After this project failed to interest the car manufacturers, Henry took up algae research, since he felt that hydrocarbons would remain the "battery" of choice for many years to come.
Henry's life was dedicated to family, public service, and the world of ideas.  Henry married Carol Maier in 1947; had three children (Jane, 1951; John, 1953; and Sarah, 1954); and six grandchildren.  His 61-year marriage was a source of support and inspiration, especially during his last 20 years when he went through a continual revolving door of hospital visits and heart operations.  (The medical industry will surely miss him as a veritable "gusher" of insurance coverage; his last 4-day bout with pneumonia, from which he was discharged in "relatively good health", brought a $29,000 bill.)  We are all thankful to his many dedicated doctors, who kept his mind alive and active while virtually every other body system gave out.  His Harvard Class of '48 entry described this period succinctly [in its entirety]: “We, after 60 years of marriage, get our exercise visiting one doctor after another.  Life is good.  Try to develop clean fuel.  Go to history lectures."
Henry's public service began in the Army, where he served in Morocco until the end of WWII.  His patriotism was tested during the McCarthy years, when he was investigated (along with the rest of his family), and denied a security clearance.  Suspicion seems to have come from his ordering a copy of the "Soviet 5 Year Plan" while he was a soldier, as a birthday gift to his brother John, then a high school student.  He was elected to City Council in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he lived for nearly 20 years and was one of the first Democrats to be elected in a Republican town.  His career and public service intersected when he joined the Carter Administration in 1977.  Despite occasional disappointments, Henry remained an optimist and an active citizen throughout his life.  From marching in Detroit for Civil Rights in the 60s, through many local campaigns and elections, Henry was indefatigable in championing those less fortunate than himself.
His passion for ideas inspired many of us -- family, friends and colleagues.  Henry made listening into an art form; he was able to follow almost any discussion on any topic, with useful insight and encouraging remarks, no matter how silly the idea.  Not known for fiery oratory, Henry was always brief and to the point.  His patience and undivided attention made all of us feel special in his eyes.  His many notebooks of research and references, some dated up to a few days ago, are testimony to his passion for ideas.  For all who knew him well, he will be remembered as a teacher, guiding us forward with humor, skepticism, and optimism to do great things and enjoy life.
Thanks, Henry; we will miss you.