Peter Carruthers

Peter Carruthers, portrait by Bernice Durand

Peter Carruthers, a UA physics professor and former physics department head, died Sunday at his Tucson home after suffering liver disease for more than 10 years. He was 61. Carruthers was a multi-talented artist as well as a physicist. He had two art shows earlier this year in Tucson displaying several of his 800 watercolors.

“He branched out a lot as he got older,” said his wife, Lucy Carruthers.

Peter Carruthers was also an avid trout fisherman for 30 years and wrote a book on fly fishing, which will be published later this summer. He also wrote more than 1,000 poems, some of which are being translated for a bilingual book to be released soon in Romania. In addition, Carruthers was a musician, playing both the piano and the violin. But an automobile injury in September 1995 left him unable to continue practicing the violin, Lucy Carruthers said. Carruthers came to the UA in 1986 as the physics department head to pursue the construction of a multi-billion dollar federal science project, the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC).

“He had lots of research interests,” said Robert Thews, Professor Emeritus of Physics. Carruthers’ most recent research at the UA involved high-energy physics and elementary particles. His job was to hire new, good faculty when he first came to UA, Thews said. He hired 16 faculty members by the time he stepped down as department head in 1992. I’m going to remember him as somebody who really liked his work and was instrumental in bringing out the best in people within the department,” Thews said. He is listed in New York Times Magazine as “a thinker pushing the frontiers of knowledge.” Carruthers researched topics in theoretical physics, from condensed matter, quantum optics and particle physics to relative nuclear physics and complexity.

Carruthers is listed in American Men and Women of Science, Who’s Who in Frontiers of Science and Technology, and Who’s Who in America. Carruthers was born in Lafayette, Ind., but grew up in Middletown, Iowa. He obtained both a bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees in physics from the Carnegie Institute of Technology. Carruthers received his doctorate in physics from Cornell University in 1961. There, he became the youngest tenured professor of physics at the age of 28.

He left Cornell in 1973 to direct the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and came to the University of Arizona in 1986. Carruthers’s positions held with Aspen Center for Physics were: Chair of the Board 1979 – 1982, Trustee 1975 – 1982, and Honorary Trustee 1990 – 1997.

Memorial obituary by Jennifer Sterba from The University of Arizona’s publication Arizona Summer Wildcat (1997) here.
A brief biography of Carruthers is included in the article titled, “Physicist in Aspen Debating Key Issues” by Walter Sullivan (1979), published in The New York Times here.
Peter Carruthers, portrait by Bernice Durand

Positions Held

Trustee, 1975 – 1982
Chair of the Board, 1979 – 1982
Honorary Trustee, 1990 – 1997