Remembering Peter Franken
University of Arizona, Optical Sciences Center

November 10, 1928 - March 11, 1999

Peter A. Franken, Optical Sciences Center Professor and former director, died on March 11, 1999 at his home in Tucson, Arizona. He is survived by his wife, Peg Nash Franken and his children and step-children, Alicia Delano of Chicago, Lydia Quilter of Colville, Washington, Jessica Franken of Phoenix, Polly Nash of Tucson, and Patrick Nash of Tucson, by a brother, Paul Franken of New York City, and by his six grandchildren, Marshall, Zachary, Julie, Palmer, Katherine, and L. James.

           Peter's legacy to the Optical Sciences Center includes recruitment of a number of world-class faculty members including, Harrison Barrett, Eustace Dereniak, Charles Falco, Hyatt Gibbs, Willis Lamb who is the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1955, H. Angus Macleod, James Palmer, Nasser Peyghambarian, Dror Sarid, and the Center's present director, James C. Wyant. During his directorship, Peter expanded the Center's research funding from primarily Air Force support to include the National Science Foundation and many industrial companies.

     At the Optical Sciences Center, Peter will be remembered for doing his best at whatever he happened to be doing, and for doing it with enthusiasm, style, and grand enjoyment. We will also remember him for his talent in bringing out the best in everyone, for his ability to convince diverse people to work together, for his genuine interest in each of us. His warmth, his sparkling sense of humor and his treasure trove of yarns, stories and jokes were the stuff of legend.

    He was an accomplished painter, sculptor, jewelry maker and a gourmet cook. In recent years he developed an interest in glass as an artistic medium. His designs in stained glass were exhibited at Las Mananitas Gallery in Tucson in November, 1997. Peter's love of glass has been appreciated here at the Center where many of his works hang in our halls, stairways, and offices because Peter ran out of room for them at home.

        Peter Franken was director of the Optical Sciences Center at the University of Arizona for ten years; from 1973 to 1983. Since then, he has been a Professor of Optical Sciences, Physics, and the Arizona Research Laboratory and served as acting director of the Arizona Research Laboratory from 1983 to 1984.

     Prior to coming to the Optical Sciences Center, Peter was a professor of physics at the University of Michigan, and both deputy director and acting director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) at the Department of Defense.




He served as an expert at the Office of Emergency Preparedness, Office of the U.S. President, as a visiting professor of Physics at Yale University, as a visiting lecturer in physics at Oxford University and as an instructor and assistant professor at Stanford University.

     In addition to his work at the Optical Sciences Center, Peter served as chairman of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Particle Beam Technology in 1982, as chairman of the Laboratory Advisory Board for Research, Naval Research Advisory Committee from 1976 to 1978, a member of the Executive Panel of the Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy from 1975 to 1978, as chairman of the Adversary Group on Survivability, U.S. Air Force from 1975 to 1978, as consultant to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1972 to 1975, as chairman of the Joint Council onQuantum Electronics from 1969 to 1972, as a member of the Advisory Group on Electron Devices from 1963 to 1976, and as chairman of the National Academy Advisory Committee to Atomic Physics and JILA of the Bureau of Standards from 1963 to 1965.

     Peter was president of OSA, the Optical Society of America in 1977, director-at-large from 1967 to 1971 and again from 1976 to 1978. At the time of his death, he was a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Engineering Sciences, a fellow of OSA, a fellow of APS, the American Physical Society, a fellow of SPIE, the International Society for Optical Engineering ,a fellow of AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the Radiological Society of North America, and a member of Sigma Xi. Peter's professional prizes and awards included the American Association of Physics Teachers' Klopsteg Memorial Lecture Award in 1995, the Richtmeyer Lecturer of the American Physical Society for 1987, the Optical Society of America, Wood Prize in 1979, and the American Physical Society Prize in 1967. He was a Fellow of the Sloan Foundation from 1958 to 1962.

His research interests were many and varied. His most recent projects included research into drug and explosive detection technology, precision surface measurements in seismology, detection of asteriod impact flashes on the moon, disposal of radioactive waste, optical methods for early detection of breast cancer, the use of high-power lasers in the treatment of extensive burns, applications of military technology for the control of locust swarms, and issues of technology transfer with the former Soviet Union.

      At the time of his death, Peter was teaching Physics 102, Introductory Physics I. During the spring 1998 semester, he taught Physics 101, Physics in the Modern World.

    He received his Ph.D. in Physics from Columbia University in 1952, an MA from Columbia University in 1950 and a BA from Columbia College in 1948.