Peter hiking in the Sierra Nevada, always one of his favorite places in the world
Peter Adalbert Wolff
  • 89 years old
  • Date of birth: Nov 15, 1923
  • Date of passing: Sep 5, 2013

For many years our father has suffered from a mixed dementia, which finally took his life on September 5th, 2013.

We don't know how long the dementia had been affecting him, as the early symptoms were both hard to appreciate or accept -- perhaps ten years, perhaps more.

It has been an isolating illness, naturally and progressively seperating him from his friends, and from his connections to the world. It has also made it hard for us to remember how he was before.

As a result, we would like to remember our father with the help of this memorial web site. We welcome any and all contributions (stories, photos, whatever you have). We have become quite aware of all the things we don't know about our father, and would love to learn more from you.

Here is the link to his obituary in the MIT newsletter:

We suggest that donations in his memory to be directed to

Giving to the Arts at MIT (2016400)

-- Mia and Whitney Wolff

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Chuck Chan on 19th December 2013

"Vikas Sukhatme and I were Peter's first two Ph.D. students.  He was always there for us and watched out for our welfare.  He provided excellent guidance, advice and was always supportive.  He was the thesis adviser that everybody wanted.    I will miss him."

This tribute was added by Ken Smith on 2nd October 2013

"Dear Mia and Whitney,
        Your Dad was already Director of the Magnet lab when I became Vice President for Research.   As a result, we had many interesting discussions about the problems and opportunities of the lab, but I best remember his remarkable combination of high standards tempered by an unusual generosity.  We will all miss him."

This tribute was added by John Lawless on 19th September 2013

"As a kid, I didn't know much about science, but I knew that it was really cool, that MIT was the place to do it, and that Mr. Wolff worked there in offices with mysterious machines and Hubble photographs on the walls. I'll always remember him most for how supportive he was, for taking enough interest in my childhood ambitions to show me around his lab. It was just so caring and kind."

This tribute was added by Anna Lawless on 13th September 2013

"I'll always remember Mr. Wolff at family Christmases, gamely joining a white elephant Yankee Swap or making lovely and complex paper ornaments for us kids. He was always so thoughtful and generous, willing to take an afternoon to show my brother around MIT or celebrate my graduation and everything in between. He was a kind man and I'm grateful to have known him."

This tribute was added by Marc Kastner on 13th September 2013

"Peter hired me at MIT and oversaw the early days of my career.  He was a great mentor as well as a role model when I began to take on administrative responsibilities. He was a great scientist, research manager and a kind and generous mentor for students as well as faculty and staff.  His life was a gift to all who worked with him."

This tribute was added by Jeanne Serafin on 12th September 2013

"I haven't seen your dad for a number of years, and I am sorry to hear of his passing.  My clearest memories of both your dad and mom were from when Deb and Whitney were living in Newton.  I believe Peter designed the garden for your home. It was a lovely spot and I had the impression the garden was a shared source of pleasure for all of you."

This tribute was added by Ray Ashoori on 10th September 2013

"We regularly had lunch together, and he and Cathy took me out for a special lunch when I got tenure in 1999. Peter was very interested in what I was doing in my lab and in my life, and he often helped me look on the bright side of things when experiments weren't working. He was a consistently cheerful guy with amazing scope and just very fun to be around. He is sorely missed here."

This tribute was added by Erich Ippen on 10th September 2013

"Peter was one of my favorite people.  He was my first boss at Bell Labs and ultimately convinced me to come to MIT.  He was a kind, thoughtful, inspiring mentor – and, in addition to be being very smart, was an excellent tennis player.  He was a good man.  I miss him."

This tribute was added by William Bertozzi on 9th September 2013

"Mia and Whitney:
Peter was a great colleague to have. I am in experimental nuclear and particle physics and because of the disparat fields we did not intersect often. However, when we did interact he was always a class act: friendly, open, intelligent, informative and a good listener. He was an excellent physicist, a gentleman, and  fine human being."

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This memorial is administered by:

Stubeda family


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