P. Buford Price (1932-2021)

We have sad news. Former SSL Director P. Buford Price passed away on Dec. 28, 2021. 

P. Buford Price

Buford Price received his BS in Physics from Davidson College in 1954, and a PhD in Physics from the University of Virginia in 1958. After receiving his PhD, he was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Bristol, then an NSF Fellow at Cambridge. He joined the research staff at General Electric Corporation in Schenectady NY in 1960. Subsequently, he joined the faculty of UC Berkeley in 1969, where he was a Professor of Physics from 1969 until his retirement in 2002. He remained a professor of the graduate school from 2002 until his death in 2021.

Buford contributed his talents to several prominent leadership roles at Berkeley. He was Director of the Space Sciences Laboratory from 1979 to 1985, Chairman of the Department of Physics from 1987 to 1992, and Dean of Physical Sciences from 1992 to 2001.

His scientific accomplishments contributed to a wide range of disciplines. At General Electric, he developed the nuclear track-etch technique, which continues to find widespread application in geology, geophysics, anthropology, high-energy nuclear physics, exotic radioactivity, planetary science and high-energy astrophysics, as well as commercial applications. He was one of the first scientists to analyze lunar samples returned by the Apollo astronauts, and later developed cosmic-ray detectors that were deployed on the Russian Space Station. He was a founding member of the AMANDA collaboration, later IceCube, the high-energy neutrino observatory installed in the polar ice underneath the South Pole. This collaboration led to highly productive work in glaciology, paleoclimatology, and the study of extremophile bacteria living in Antarctic ice. Buford was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in 1975 as a result of his early work, and he contributed to many other fields during his five decade research career.

Buford trained several generations of students who went on to productive scientific careers, a testament to his highly collaborative approach to doing science. He always encouraged his students and associates to explore their own ideas and generously supported their professional development. All who worked with Buford knew him to be a delightful colleague, peer and mentor.

Buford’s sunny optimism and huge smile will be missed.  [by Andrew Westphal]

“I was incredibly fortunate to have Buford as my PhD thesis advisor. Buford was extraordinarily supportive of me, as he was of all of his students. I cherish my memories of our daily walks across campus from the third floor of Birge to Café Strada, where we would talk over cappuccinos about crazy and not-so-crazy ideas. Many successful projects came out of these daily conversations. Any accomplished person has many parents, not just their biological ones. For my own accomplishments, Buford was an incredible academic parent and mentor, for which I will always be grateful.”

Dr. Andrew Westphal, Senior Fellow & Research Physicist, Space Sciences Laboratory