William Frederick Hummel December 26, 1922–July 18, 2020

This obituary appeared in the LA Times on July, 24, 25, and 26.

William Frederick Hummel died peacefully on July 18, 2020 after 97 years, six months, and 22 days of life.  He was born in 1922 in Nanjing, China to American missionary parents along with all of his siblings and cousins.  The family returned to the United States in 1927 and settled permanently in Los Angeles. William attended Los Angeles High School commuting from the family home in eastern Hollywood aboard the Red Car.  He attended UC Berkeley, majoring initially in Astronomy, and later in Physics.

His studies were interrupted by his service in the US Navy during World War II.  The Navy sent him to midshipman school at Columbia University in New York City, and then to advanced training in the newly emerging field of microwave technology at Harvard University and MIT in Boston.  (UC Berkeley later awarded him his bachelor’s degree based on these credits.)  He served as a radar officer aboard the cruiser Boston in the Pacific Theater, traveling throughout Japan during the first year of the postwar occupation.

After separating from the Navy, he returned to California and soon met his future wife, Laurel Elizabeth Jones.  They married on July 20, 1947.  Their first child, Gregory Evan Hummel, was born in 1950, and died at the age of 17 months due to a congenital heart defect.  Their surviving children are Gwendolyn Elisa Hummel (born 1953) and Martin Edward Hummel (born 1954).

William embarked on a long and distinguished career in the aerospace industry, which was then rapidly growing in Southern California.  He simultaneously pursued graduate studies in Electrical Engineering at USC earning his MSEE in 1957.  He worked at Hughes Aircraft Company for 35 years, retiring as Chief Scientist of the Controls Systems Laboratory.  One accomplishment in which he took great pride was designing the control system for the Surveyor series of unmanned spacecraft, which successfully soft-landed on the Moon, proving the feasibility and paving the way for the astronauts of the Apollo program.  In connection with his work, he also returned to China, and lived in Munich, Germany during an extended assignment to partner with an aerospace company there.

He and Laurel enjoyed traveling extensively throughout Europe, Hawaii, and the Caribbean.  His many other interests included gardening, candid photography, personal computers, and dogs.  He was an ardent lover of classical music and made sure his children were initiated into a love of music.  After he retired from Hughes he bought a van and traveled extensively along the back roads of California, accompanied by his beloved Labrador Danny Boy.

In later years he pursued his deep interest in economics and monetary systems developing an acclaimed website and publishing a book, “Money—What It Is and How It Works.”  He also founded an online Google discussion forum called Understanding Money, which still continues.  After his beloved wife Laurel died in 2005, in her memory he endowed the Laurel Hummel Scholarships for international students at UCLA Extension.  He will be mourned and greatly missed by all who knew him.

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