Originally Published: November 11, 2016 6 a.m.
Peter Edward Kaus was born in Vienna in 1924. He and his brother Otto were the sons of writers Gina and Otto Kaus. Peter attended the Schottengymnasium until the March 1938 Anschluss, when the family fled Austria, first to Paris, then, via Ellis Island, to Hollywood.
Peter graduated from Hollywood High School in 1940 and continued his studies at UCLA. Within four years he was drafted and quickly became an American citizen. After the war, Peter returned to UCLA, and received a Ph.D. in Physics in 1954.
Peter met his future wife, Eva Lewy, in the UCLA cafeteria annex in 1949, and they married one year later. They had three daughters, Toni, Nicola and Andrea.
In 1954 the couple moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where Peter worked for RCA Laboratories. His team at RCA designed the deflection yoke for the first commercially successful color TV tube, for which Peter shares the patent but not the commercial rights. While he was at Princeton, he finished his dissertation on self-composite fermions and also supplied the mathematical expertise for Colin Pittendrigh’s original work on biological clocks (circadian rhythms).
Peter returned to Los Angeles in 1958 for a position at the University of Southern California. In 1963 the family moved to Riverside, where Peter became a physics professor at the then-new University of California, Riverside campus. He remained at UCR for the next 30 years, teaching and continuing his research in elementary particle physics. Peter’s work spanned a broad range of topics from neutrinos to quarks, in collaboration with many other researchers (and future close friends).
One of the key accomplishments of his life was his contribution to the establishment and success of the Aspen Center for Physics, a premier international institution for research in theoretical physics. Peter participated in the Center’s founding research program in 1962 and every year thereafter for fifty years. The Center and the people associated with it were at the core of his life, and Eva and he always looked forward to spending the summers and falls at their home on Pearl Court, often with children, grandchildren, and friends. Peter served the Physics Center in many capacities, including as General Member, Trustee, Vice President, and President. In recognition of this service he was an Honorary Trustee from 1986 until his death.
During the 1965-66 academic year Peter was a Fulbright Scholar at the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark. The entire family lived in Copenhagen for the year, spending the summer hiking in Norway.
Peter was an avid hiker. He loved summers spent on family burro trips in the Sierra Nevada. For many years he led weekend hikes with the Aspen Physics Center colleagues and their families throughout the mountains in the Aspen area, forming many lifelong friendships as well as scientific collaborations. Peter was legendary for demonstrating physics principles while hiking, including jumping off a knife ridge during a climb to allay the fears of fellow hikers. “People are like Jell-O, not rocks,” he said, and indeed he did not fall far. These trips and excursions were extended to California as well, where he, colleagues, friends, and family often hiked and explored the mountains and deserts of Southern California and Baja California.
In his retirement, Peter and Eva moved to Prescott, Arizona, where Peter enjoyed watching grandsons Ben and Jake Marker grow up and seeing his daughters enter happy marriages: Toni to Mary Trevor, Niki to Steve Smith, and Andrea to Jim Wood.
On Nov. 6, 2016, Peter died at home, after a day surrounded by the love of family and friends. He was 92.
Information provided by survivors.