Jack Ellwood Steele
(1924 - 2009)

Jack Ellwood Steele
Nickname: Great Guru

Illinois, United States of America
January 27, 1924

Ohio, United States of America
January 19, 2009

Bionics, artificial intelligence, psychiatry, hypnosis, flying, photography, chess, committee minds, systems engineering, wilderness camping, art, motorcycle riding, electronics, ham radio, talking, multiple-personalities, Milton H. Erickson, science fiction, reading, scientific study of religion, glass paperweights, learning, writing, genealogy, poetry, travel, people, architecture, ...
Guest Book
I am sorry I never got to meet Dr. Steele. My father, David Feller, was his first cousin. My grandfather, Donald W. Feller, was Ruth Feller Steele's brother. I do remember visiting Aunt Ruth as a young child. She was very sweet, and I still remember the book she gave me! -Karen (Feller) Galvan, MD
Karen Galvan (Cousin)
July 5th, 2017
Captain of My Crew

I've been a lot of people,
And I've yet a lot to be.
Can the one that's here now writing,
Be the one that's really me?

I am the master of my selves,
The captain of my crew.
They often tell me what we want,
But I choose what we do!

by Jack E. Steele
Jill Mayer (Daughter)
December 2nd, 2016
We played together from age 5 up. We went through school together in Mendota, IL We were both in college when WWII called us and we lost track of each other, to meet again in some of our high school reunions. I was an Army Air Corps pilot and all over the hemisphere. We always were in contact but so far apart we seldom met. While Barb and I were in Michigan we had friends that had a son in the army. He was overseas and was involved in a mess in the Congo. They were ambushed and all were presumed to be dead. This boy, while terribly injured, knew enough to play dead and survived.
His injuries were mostly to his head and he was considered a lost cause by the medics, when they found him. When I heard about this, I was able to contact Jack and he gave me instructions for his parents to follow to get their son to the proper place so that he could see him. That's the way it went and Jack saved the young man and gave him a life. He moved to the Florida Keys sometime after we had moved to Fort Myers and we talked on the phone a number of times but were never able to get together. Their home was seriously damage in one of our hurricanes so they lived in their motor home next to the house. The last time there was a communication was when we were out of town and they were going north somewhere and they stopped to see us. Not being home, he called our number to leave a message which said, "He's either dead or they don't live here anymore" When we got back I tried calling him but their phone was disconnected and I was never able to find him again. That was in late 2008.
We were both into model airplanes and in 1940 I designed a plane and we both built it at Jack's house. It was called the Stelost and had an Olsen 80 engine. Jack had developed a counter weight system that we were going to try out. When the engine quits in flight, the balance on the aircraft changes and it gets nose heavy. Jack figured if he had a weight that would move toward the rear he could change that. We got the plane up in a spiral climb and we figured it had to be a 1000 feet in the air when the engine ran out of fuel. It immediately went nose down and came crashing to the ground. "Well" Jack said, "I guess my idea didn't work."
Stanley Yost (best friend)
November 2nd, 2014
curtis price (unknown)
September 1st, 2013
Suzy, So sorry to hear of the loss of your father, although far, far too late... He was a genious whom intimidated me to the point of self destruction. The world and society in general will, and should regret his loss. I'm so sorry for your loss, and wish you well in your career and "Life, The Universe And Everything"
John Komon (Dated His daughter Suzy)
August 27th, 2011
I met Jack when I worked in the Drug Treatment Unit at DMHC in 1974. I felt an instant kinship with him, and to this day think the world of him. Invited to my wedding, he brought me a plastic bucket to wash floors. Graciously his wife added a more appropriate gift, which I still treasure (thank you). So many stories.... I regret that time and events led me away, Jack. You had a great influence on me. Thank you so much.
Deborah Smyth (co-worker)
May 27th, 2011
Published in the Dayton Daily News, Thursday, January 29, 2009
Written by Mary McCarty, Staff Writer


Jack Steele will be known in the history books as The Father of Bionics.

For Jill Mayer and Suzy Steele, he will be remembered as their father, the eccentric genius, the pioneering psychiatrist-turned-engineer who gave them a love of adventure.

Steele died Jan.19 at the age of 84 after a long and varied career as a psychiatrist and engineer.

On his memorial Web site, his wildly eclectic interests are listed as "bionics, artificial intelligence, psychiatry, hypnosis, flying, photography, chess, systems engineering, wilderness camping, art, motorcycle riding, electronics, ham radio, talking, multiple-personalities, science fiction, reading, scientific study of religion, glass paperweights, learning, writing, genealogy, poetry, travel, people, architecture."

You know, basic stuff.

His daughter, Suzy, said her father taught her, "It's OK not to be like everyone else; in fact, it's preferable. In my family, it's an insult to be called normal."

On the surface, the Steeles seemed like a typical middle-class family growing up in Riverside. But Jack Steele was never typical. His widow, former Fairmont High School history teacher Ruth Kelley Steele, will never forget his proposal: "Let's buy an airplane and get married."

He flew the plane to Mexico for their honeymoon, flying from one Mayan ruin to another, with dirt roads as runways.

Fortunately, she shared her husband's sense of adventure, learning to fly a plane and ride motorcycles at the age of 60.

Steele's fascination with biology, engineering and mathematics merged with his invention of the concept of bionics in the 1950s.

"Bionics is considered superstrength because of the cartoonish representation of the media," said family friend Charles Littell.

"In reality, bionics is the application of biological principles that can solve technical problems. It's finding where biology has solved problems through evolution and seeing how they can be solved through technical means. Camouflage is a good example."

When he retired from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Steele at last pursued his longtime passion for engineering. He obtained a master's degree from Wright State University in 1977 with his thesis "Bionic Designs of Intelligent Systems," a concept he presented at the first bionics symposium held at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1963. He derived the term bionics from the Greek word bio, meaning life.

Steele is mentioned in Martin Caidin's 1972 novel "Cyborg," which would later provide the inspiration for the TV series "The Six-Million Dollar Man" and "The Bionic Woman."

Mayer said her father regarded the shows as "silly" in the way they distorted the true nature of bionics. "Bionics is the study of life to further the study of engineering, not engineering to help life," said Mayer, 51, an engineer who lives with her husband, Alastair, and their three children in Colorado.

He maintained a sense of humor about his place in pop culture, getting a huge kick out of it when his daughters presented him with a "Bionic Man" action figure as a Christmas gift. He also appeared on the quiz show "To Tell the Truth" in the 1960s.

While history may remember Steele as the Father of Bionics, Littell said his friend was equally inventive in the field of psychiatry. Steele lectured widely across Europe about his "committee of minds" theory, an approach to therapy he developed while treating patients at Dayton State Hospital.

Littell, who is chief of the video production unit for Wright-Patterson, called Steele "one of the smartest people I have ever met, and I run in MENSA circles. And he had a grand and mischievous sense of humor."

The Father of Bionics saved his most insightful scientific observation for his children.

"My father always advised us to marry a friend," Mayer said. "He said that romance will wear out, but you should marry someone you can talk to all your life. That's what he did with Mom."
Mary McCarty (Dayton Daily News Staff W)
March 21st, 2009
We were neighbors for 7 years on Bonnieview Ave. What great neighbors you were. Thank you for allowing us to bring Hobo (our german shepherd) over to run down by the pond. He loved it so much,it was hard to get him to come back home. We always enjoyed and will never forget our talks while we gave out candy to the kids on beggers night. Jack really had some interesting stories to share. He will be missed.
Jim and Judy Holbrook (Former neighbors)
January 29th, 2009
I am a retired (chemistry) teacher from Stebbins H.S., Dayton. Both Jill and Suzy were former students of mine and I recall how bright and well-motivated they were. It was a pleasure to interact with their parents at open house, etc. Jack Steele was a speaker at our Stebbins Science Club on one or two occasions.
What a brilliant man he was and a very proud father too. I'm sure he will be missed by all those who knew and loved him.
Ron McCray (friend)
January 29th, 2009
Jack was a great friend to me, an inspiration, a mentor, and a fellow traveler on the path of awe. More than being missed, he will be remembered.

Jack sometimes found himself attracted to the paranormal. Many folks are attracted to it by instinct (literally), while my instinct is to reject it. He didn't share my prejudice, though I am sure instinct had little to do with his interest.

One day, not having seen Jack for weeks or months, I returned from a camping trip with a half-empty helium cylinder (don't ask.) Not wanting to waste the contents when returning the rented cylinder, I went outside and filled a couple of large trash bags and satisfied my idiosyncratic humor by watching them float away over east Dayton, tied together and making what I hoped would be a puzzle for some lesser mortal.

Weeks or months passed until I next saw Jack, and lo, he had a story: He was driving on an errand, and saw a UFO. Yes, we later determined, it was THAT particular day. Hardly one to let such an opportunity escape, Jack immediately gave chase. He followed it all the way across east Dayton, into Belmont. And to his amazement, the UFO descended and landed on the roof...of the very building where he worked at the State Hospital! He dashed inside and found someone who had access to the roof, to go up and look. And he was disappointed when the man came back and said he didn't find anything on the roof except some trash. If there IS such a thing as paranormal science, Jack and I may have been close indeed.
Charles Littell (Friend)
January 29th, 2009
I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Steele for years at Dayton Mental Health Center. His caring and gentle manner towards our patients will always be remembered, and the funny stories he used to tell us after our Team Meetings were hilarious. He will be missed and remembered by all who knew him
Amy Reid (a forner co-worker)
January 28th, 2009
Ruth, my friend, I miss our lunches together and the phone calls which became ever less frequent. I miss calling you----Jack always answered. It was only after 10-15 minutes of genial verbal jousting that he would deign to call you to the phone! Jack had a flair for comedy, and for stirring the mind to thought. I always enjoyed his banter. He was truly one-of-a-kind. Please call me whenever you wish----I went through this three years ago.

Jean Wallingford
Jean Wallingford (friend)
January 27th, 2009
I have known Jack many years through the East Dayton Optimist Club. I still recall one year when he was the keynote speaker for our anniversary dinner. I was fascinated as he explained his theory on treating multiple personalities, or as he called it, the "committee".
When I was an officer in the club, he was our Bulletin Editor and used the pen name the "Twisted Arm". The bulletins that year were, to say the least, very interesting. He analyzed our weekly speaker, the content of the meals, and a gave us a clever quip or humorous saying.
But there is one time that I remember Jack the most. His daughter, Jill agreed to dance for the club at an evening function. I saw a different part of him that night. He was not the eccentric genius nor was he the clinical psychiatrist. He was not the world renown expert on hypnosis. He was just a nervous dad who was very very proud of his daughter. Jack Steele will indeed be missed.
Jim Back (East Dayton Optimist Club)
January 27th, 2009
i knew jack from the east dayton optimist. we had many a fruitful discussions. he was one of the most unassuming and impressive men i have ever met. as shakespere said "he was a man of infinite jest."
dave smith.
January 27th, 2009
This may seem strange because I really didnt know Jack hardly at all, however I did have the pleasure of helping him to purchase a truck once. Mostly I remember how the truck he bought was what we call in the business (left handed) if it were ordered for stock we would probably still have it in our inventory and this was 7 years ago, but Jack new what he wanted and he got it. I knew from our first meeting he and his wife were very interesting, special people very friendly and super fun to talk to. Im pretty sure Jack was psyco analizing me during our dealing but never judging me. I remember quite well telling my sales manager "I think this guys a genius or something".It was obvious to me he was a rare individual, outgoing,colorful,highly intelegent, and most of all friendly. I know the list goes on and on for you who loved him and had the pleasure to know him well. I would think of him from time to time just wondering how he was doing. In hindsight I probably should have stayed in better contact with him, I just know I missed an oppurtunity to get to know an extremely rare person, filled with qualities we all wish we had. To his family and friends im sorry he is phisically gone but you and I both know he will never truly be gone. I sure you all know how lucky you were to have known him. God bless you, and bless Jack, now I can see how truly extrordinary he is.
Justin Jacobs (Brief meeting)
January 27th, 2009
I met Dr. Steele as a chaplain intern at Dayton Mental Health in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Although I have forgotten most of the people who worked there I have never forgotten Dr. Steele. He taught me to think out of the box which has served me well in my pastoring. His "committee of the mind theory" has also influenced my perception of mental illness and it's treatment. Thank you Dr. Steele for making me a better person. You treated all people as human beings regardless of their short comings or which member of the committee was in charge at the moment. You will truly be a loss to not only your family but to everyone who had the fortune to share a moment in your shadow. May your reward in the next life be fitting.
Rev Pat C Whiting (former intern chaplain Da)
January 27th, 2009

You have my sincere simpathy. I can only imagine how lonely your life will without Jack. Fill free to contact me and your other friends to fill your days.

I only knew Jack briefly though East Dayton Optimist but I always thought he was a COLORFUL individual. He will be missed.

Terry Schalnat
Terry Schalnat (Friend)
January 26th, 2009
I've been a lot of people,
And I've yet a lot to be.
Can the one that's here now writing,
Be the one that's really me?

I am the master of my selves,
The captain of my crew.
They often tell me what we want,
But I choose what we do!
Jill Mayer (Daughter)
January 24th, 2009
A Dayton school teacher named Kelley,
Feared a tumor had grown in her belly.
In less than a year,
She was over her fear,
Now it's growing on crackers and jelly.
Jill Mayer (Daughter)
January 24th, 2009
In a super duper fighter,
Jet propelled and radar guided,
Rocket guns computer sighted,
Sat a pilot, undelighted.
For with all those great devices,
Shades of greater things still coming,
What his cockpit lacked was plumbing.
Jill Mayer (Daughter)
January 24th, 2009
Little Suzy one shoe,
Runs through the house,
Clump like a horse,
Pat like a mouse.
Pitty clump, patty clump,
What will she do?
Take off the other,
I would, wouldn't you?
Jill Mayer (Daughter)
January 24th, 2009
Our sincere condolences for your loss. We're here for you if you have any questions about using our service.
iLasting Staff
January 23rd, 2009
22 entries
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Chris Baynard
March 15th, 2019
"U were a brilliant man"
Logan Cloete
October 24th, 2018
sarah flaherty
March 5th, 2014
"ur cool and the beard is just amazing and your research is superb. coolbeard and R.I.P"
anthony jaramillo
May 23rd, 2012
"i liked ur aoto biographies and ur beard. dont mean to be rude."
Rene Molina
May 23rd, 2012
"You probably never knew this, but when I was a teenager, I thought your home was magical, a place of ideas and chaos. Although I am sorry that you are gone, I am grateful that you were here, and that for a while, you shared your magic with me."
Bobby Schmidt
November 30th, 2010
"I miss you and still have a lot of questions that I wish I could ask you, I love you and I will remember you always. =("
Arthur Mayer
January 24th, 2009
"Thank you for being such a good grandfather. I miss you, and I love you. Robert"
Robert Mayer
January 24th, 2009
"I already miss being able to turn to you for advice when I need it. But I can hear you in my mind quoting Milton Erickson, "So when I am just a memory, you still write to me and your unconscious can answer your letter." I will always love you, Dad!"
Jill Mayer
January 23rd, 2009


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