UH scientist advocated academic freedom
Vincent Peterson / UH Physicist
Vincent Z. Peterson taught high-energy physics at the University of Hawaii for 30 years and worked with other physicists on experiments at leading research centers on the mainland.
He is remembered beyond his own field of science because "he was keenly interested in the academic environment and the preservation of academic freedom," said UH physics professor Michael Jones.
Peterson, 85, died Thursday in Berkeley, Calif.
"A lot of people outside the sciences remember Vince for what he contributed to forming academic policy and the academic atmosphere on campus," Jones said. Peterson was elected to several terms on the UH Faculty Senate. He upheld the right of a scientist to pursue research, a debate that was revived last year over the proposed creation of a University Affiliated Research Center at Manoa that raised opposition to classified military aspects of work to be done there.
Soon after his arrival in Hawaii in 1963, Peterson got Atomic Energy Commission funding for particle physics research, according to the UH Department of Physics and Astronomy Web page. The UH physicists did work at the University of California at Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, the Stanford University Linear Accelerator Center and Fermilab in Illinois.
"The main thing he was involved in was experiments involving neutrinos," Jones said. Scientists study neutrinos -- high-energy, invisible elementary particles detectable only by interactions or collisions with matter -- in research that could lead to an understanding of the origins of the universe.
"One thing he did that really helped put Hawaii on the map in terms of particle physics was to organize a series of summer conferences that brought distinguished scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, as lecturers," Jones said. Young physicists and students had the opportunity to meet with the leading researchers in a summer school format that has been used as a model elsewhere.
Peterson retired in 1992 and moved to California in 2002.
He was born in Galesburg, Ill., and served in the Navy during World War II. He received his doctorate in physics from UC-Berkeley, and taught high-energy physics at the California Institute of Technology for 12 years before moving to Hawaii.
He is survived by son Galen; daughters Karen, Andrea and Ingrid; and five grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at a later date in Hawaii. The family suggests that memorial donations be made to the International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave., Berkeley, CA 94720.