• 89 years old
  • Born on November 15, 1923 .
  • Passed away on September 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

Posted by Chuck Chan on December 19, 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.
Posted by Ken Smith on October 2, 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.
Posted by John Lawless on September 19, 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.
Posted by Marc Kastner on September 13, 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.
Posted by Anna Lawless on September 13, 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.
Posted by Jeanne Serafin on September 12, 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.
Posted by Erich Ippen on September 10, 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.
Posted by Ray Ashoori on September 10, 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.
Posted by William Bertozzi on September 9, 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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