Obituary: Philip M. Stehle / Pitt physics prof worked on Manhattan Project

March 3, 1919 - April 29, 2013

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Physics professor Philip M. Stehle expected logical thought and precision from his children, his daughter Eva recalled.

Devotion to logic and exactness are not surprising in a man who worked on the Manhattan Project during his Army service in World War II and did scholarly research in quantum optics both at the University of Pittsburgh and in Europe.

The Manhattan Project resulted in the development of the first atomic bomb. Quantum optics applies theories of quantum mechanics to light and its interaction with matter.

Mr. Stehle, who taught at Pitt from 1947 until his retirement in 1989, died Monday of pneumonia at the Longwood at Oakmont retirement community. He was 94.

"He was an extremely cultured man," said Anthony H. Duncan, his longtime physics colleague at Pitt. "He was interested in politics, culture, literature and art."

Mr. Duncan described Mr. Stehle as a "first-rate theoretical physicist ... who was recognized as one of the world's experts on quantum optics."

His work on the Manhattan Project, where he performed some of the calculations crucial to the project's success, drew praise from project leader J. Robert Oppenheimer, Mr. Duncan said. "Many of us will miss him greatly," he said.

Mr. Stehle was born March 3, 1919, in Columbus, Ohio, the son of Raymond and Marie McLellan Stehle. He grew up in Montreal, where his father was a professor of pharmacology at McGill University.

He returned to the United States to attend college at the University of Michigan, where he met his future wife, Evelyn Mary Hoole. The two married in 1942 while he was earning his doctorate at Princeton.

He taught for a year at Harvard before coming to Pitt. He taught there in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, twice serving as department chairman.

Mr. Stehle was awarded several Fulbright Fellowships to work at the universities of Innsbruck, Austria, and Munich, Germany. The University of Innsbruck awarded him an honorary doctorate.

He was the author of three books on physics and a fourth work on the history of his discipline in the early 20th century.

After raising their family in O'Hara and Fox Chapel, Mr. Stehle and his wife moved to Longwood in 1999. She died in 2012.

Mr. Stehle enjoyed music and woodworking, according to his daughter. She and her brothers own dressers, tables and cabinets he made over the years. Some of the pieces include three-dimensional linen-fold ornamentation, a carving technique designed to make wood panels resemble stiff, creased cloth. "He loved to work with his hands," Eva Stehle said.

He was also a skier and squash player.

In addition to his daughter, who lives in College Park, Md., he is survived by sons Mark, of Agoura, Calif., and John, of Anchorage, Alaska; and two grandchildren.

Funeral services were private.


Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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