Stachel earned his PhD at Stevens Institute of Technology in Physics about a topic in General relativity in 1958. After holding different teaching positions at Lehigh University and the University of Pittsburgh, he went 1964 to Boston University where he was professor of physics until his emeritation.
In 1977, Stachel became the first editor of the Einstein Papers Project, then at Boston University. The first two volumes (out of a projected twenty-five) of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein were published during his tenure.
Stachel also authored a text, entitled Einstein: From B to Z.
- A. Einstein; J. Stachel, D.C. Cassidy, et al., eds., The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Vol. 1: The Early Years, 1879-1902, Princeton University Press 1987, ISBN 0-691-08407-6
- A. Einstein; J. Stachel, D.C. Cassidy, et al., eds., The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Vol. 2: The Swiss Years: Writings, 1900-1909, Princeton University Press 1989, ISBN 0-691-08526-9
- A. Ashtekar, J. Stachel, Conceptual Problems of Quantum Gravity, Springer 1991, ISBN 0-8176-3443-6
- D. Howard, J. Stachel, Einstein, The Formative Years 1879-1909, Birkhäuser 2000, ISBN 0-8176-4030-4
- J. Stachel, Einstein from 'B' to 'Z', Birkhauser 2001, ISBN 0-8176-4143-2
- A. Ashtekar et al., eds., Revisiting the Foundations of Relativistic Physics: Festschrift in Honor of John Stachel, Kluwer 2003, ISBN 1-4020-1284-5