Alfred Z. Hendel (1916-2010)

This drawing by [I’m looking for the artist’s name] captures Fred Hendel’s spirit:

The most formal portrait that I ever took of Fred dates from the 1980’s:

Larry Jones and Bill Ford have written a brief summary of Hendel’s life that we reproduce here:

Alfred (Fred) Hendel, professor emeritus of physics, died at his home Oct. 7, 12 days before his 94th birthday.
Hendel was born Oct. 19, 1916, in Vienna, Austria. He was a student at the University of Vienna at the time of the Anschluss when Austria was taken over by Nazi Germany. Hendel was, for a short time, involved with the underground, but he was forced to escape from Austria in 1938, also helping others to leave. He went to Bolivia where he spent the next 17 years.

At first, he earned his living in many ways — as an electrician, a newspaper photographer, a croupier in a casino and a teacher of Spanish. In 1945 he joined the physics faculty of the University of La Paz. He was given a half-time appointment in 1952 as an associate professor in the Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Fisicas in Brasil, which he fulfilled at the Mount Chacaltaya cosmic ray research station, at an elevation of about 5,200 meters above sea level, near La Paz, Bolivia.

Hendel loved skiing and helped to build a ski lodge and the first ski lift in South America on Mount Chacaltaya. In 1954 he went to France, where he attended the Sorbonne and from which he received his doctorate in physics in 1956. His research with French colleagues involved the study of recently discovered cosmic ray-produced mesons in cloud chambers at the Pic du Midi in the French Pyrenees.

He accepted a cosmic ray physics research position at Princeton University in 1957, and subsequently was recruited by Professor Wayne Hazen to join the faculty of the Department of Physics at U-M in 1959. He thoroughly enjoyed teaching and his interactions with students, colleagues say. He was involved with the Keller self-paced format in teaching the introductory physics course, writing much of the material for this alternative to the traditional lecture/discussion-section format, which was an early step in the evolution of introductory physics teaching at Michigan. With Hazen, he continued his cosmic ray research in Bolivia, where he spent about four months each year; together they made significant advances in the studies of radio signals in the 10-100 MHz frequency range produced by extensive air showers of cosmic rays at the Mount Chacaltaya research station.

Hendel continued mountain climbing ventures on the Bolivian Andes; in 1963, he and Paul Barker (a former student of Hazen) were the first climbers to ascend the south ridge of Mount Huayna Potosi (6,008 meters) and, in 1967, they were the first to ascend the north ridge of Mount Illimani (6,438 meters).

He retired from U-M faculty in 1986. In his retirement, he wrote two books: “Mountains in Bolivia” and “Revolutions in Bolivia,” in which he described some of his experiences. He was a man of many interests, from mountain climbing and skiing to playing bridge and chess. Hendel loved life; he had a great sense of humor and enjoyed a good time, colleagues say. He was skilled at solving difficult problems with simple solutions and was always ready to help others.

Hendel is survived by his wife of 43 years, Florence; nephew George; niece Noemi; and grandchildren.


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1 Comment

  1. Dr. Juliane Mikoletzky

     /  November 18, 2016

    Alfred Hendel did not study a the University of Vienna, but at the Vienna University of Technology (now TU Wien).
    In 1948, he shortly came back to Vienna to finish his studies, passing his II. State Examination,


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