American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Charles Stacy French, 1907-1995

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1996


Charles Stacy French, American Alpine Club member since 1937, and former Director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Plant Physiology and Professor of Biology at Stanford University, died October 13 at the age of 88. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, he was educated at Loomis Academy and Harvard University where he received a doctorate in biology in 1934. He was very involved in mountaineering and skiing activities with the Harvard Alpine and Skiing Club, climbing often in the White Mountains and skiing at Tuckerman’s Ravine. He was also involved in and led expeditions to the Alps where he climbed the Matterhorn and had many wonderful climbing adventures.

After the completion of his doctorate Stacy French worked as a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology. He also found time to go on a number of climbing expeditions with Norman Clyde and his good friend and fellow botanist, Carl Sharsmith (longtime ranger at Tuolomne Meadows in Yosemite National Park). He climbed Mount Whitney, Mount Shasta, Mount Hood and Mount Rainier, and was a member of a climbing party led by Norman Clyde that established a new route on the Hotlun Glacier of Mt. Shasta in 1934.

Stacy French was an Austin Teaching Fellow at Harvard Medical School and also taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Minnesota before being chosen as the Director of the Department of Plant Physiology in 1947. Aside from the main labs on Stanford University Campus, the department maintained research field stations at Point Reyes National Seashore and Mather and Tioga Pass just outside the western and eastern boundaries of Yosemite National Park. Part of the work at the Yosemite stations was to develop range grasses for various altitudes. The Tioga Research Station was above timberline and focused on alpine grasses. He would make yearly pilgrimages to oversee the work going on at these research stations and would camp and hike with his family in the Sierras as part of these excursions.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Mr. French also partipated in numerous scientific and professional organizations. He was active in the Committee for Green Foothills and the Friends of Hidden Villa (local environmental organizations which he loved dearly). He was also a longtime member of the American Alpine Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Explorer’s Club and the Sierra Club. He was married to Margaret Wendell Coolidge of Cambridge, Massachusetts for 54 years and is survived by two children, Helena Stacy French of Arlington, Massachusetts and Charles Ephraim French of Santa Barbara, California.

Charles Ephraim French

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