Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Howard Schachman died on August 5th. Another dear friend gone. I feel like a performer in Haydn's Farewell Symphony, as most friends of my generation leave the stage one by one.

Howard was remarkable, an outstanding biochemist and a brilliant advocate for academic freedom and civil liberties. He kept at it without pause, giving a graduate seminar course on ethics in science up to and including the last of his 97 years!

I can give personal testimony to his passion and effectiveness in defense of academic freedom. One small thing of many he accomplished was to lead faculty colleagues in beating back efforts by the UC Regents in 1964 to veto my faculty appointment on political grounds. At the same time, he began a successful campaign over a two-year period to rehire a faculty member, Eli Katz, who had been fired for refusal to answer questions about his politics from the House Un-American Committee and the UC Administration.

Of course there was a far bigger story in 1964. Howard and I found ourselves standing together at the Sproul Hall steps (later officially renamed for Mario Savio) right after the last student protesters were dragged out and arrested. We got together with a few colleagues and organized the meeting later that day that formed the Committee of 200, which organized faculty support for the students. Howard was part of the leadership group that formulated the eventual Academic Senate Resolution, passed overwhelmingly, that marked the victory of the Free Speech Movement with the University's acceptance of its main principles.

There is a lot more, from opposition to the Loyalty Oath in the 1950s to the many-sided struggles against subordination of the university and academic research to corporate and military interests. Howard strongly opposed UC's ties to the nuclear weapons labs. There was no stronger voice for fairness and integrity in the scientific community than Howard's.

Above all, I miss dear friends, Howard and Ethel, both having played their parts beautifully. And the symphony continues.


  1. Leon, Sorry you have lost another comrade. As you grieve your loss , celebrate the many years of friendship and the brotherhood of fighting the good fight for all of your adult lives. And yes, the symphony plays on.

  2. Leon, even though I had never met Howard I find myself suffering a great loss from the brief but descriptive account of your relationship. I can only hope as my band master leaves the podium someone as eloquent as yourself would be there to speak in some small way on my behalf.

  3. Leon,
    So sorry for the loss of your friend. Thank you for passing on the story of this outstanding man.
    Carol and Joe

  4. Hi Leon,
    Thank you for posting this sad news, along with your skillful summation of Howard's inspiring achievements.
    There are not many of us left.