Remembering Peter Carruthers

In June 1973 I was dozing in the living room when I heard Peter get off the phone and say to his sister "Their grandmother just died, and I am supposed to tell them!". I woke up, and said that he didn't have to worry, he had just told me, and that I would tell my little sister. I was 10 and my sister 8 years old. His father and my mother had left all the children - with Peter in charge for what must have been several days, while they went to Nebraska. Such a lot of responsibility at such a young age, he was almost 18.

Shortly after that I remember an argument between Peter and his father about the cost of college tuition. His father was complaining that Cornell was so expensive! Peter reasonably pointed out that when applying to colleges, Cornell had been free, with his father a professor, and that his father's decision to take a new job in Los Alamos New Mexico was entirely responsible, Peter was not to blame!

Later, in Los Alamos New Mexico, I recall Peter coming for Christmas vacation, and bringing fancy LP cleaning equipment called Discwashers. Maybe that was a gift? Anyway, his father insisted that it wasn't necessary, you could clean your records with a dish rag. He demonstrated, but then Peter pointed to the LP, and there was a fragment of carrot stuck to it! Another definite and quite comic win.

After his father died in 1997, all the family gathered in Aspen to spread his ashes, and we hiked around the mountains. I have a very fond memory of flying kites in the park with Peter, as if we were still children. We genuinely had fun that day, it was such a relief from the sad occasion. We even enjoyed untangling the string. I don't get angry at snarled line, it's part of the experience, every time I fly fish, and it's a good time to pause, and enjoy the day. It was such a shock to learn he died 10 months ago! He didn't even tell me he was ill. But I think, he's never liked passing on bad news, just like in 1973.

Biographical Sketch

Peter Alexander Carruthers was born to Peter Ambler Carruthers and Jean Alexander Carruthers from Middletown Ohio on September 29, 1955. His earliest years were spent in Pennsylvania, while his father attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology. Peter was the first born of 3 children. The family moved to Ithaca New York in 1957 where he would spend the majority of his life. Peter's father, whom the family called Pete, came to Cornell for postgraduate study, became a full professor of Physics, and moved to New Mexico in 1973, but Peter stayed in Ithaca, with his mother. His parents divorced, and his father married the wife of another physicist, who also had 3 three young children. Peter became an audiophile and built Heathkit stereo systems as a teenager. Peter did very well in school, and attended Cornell, earning a B.S. in Circuit Design and an M.S. in Solid Mechanics from Cornell. He wrote a thesis entitled "Cylinder Curvature Measurement with Specularly Reflected Ultrasonic Pulses" in 1980. Peter spent much of his career designing motor drivers, starting with Stepper Motor Drivers for Smith Corona, then four quadrant brushless DC motor drivers for Ithaco Space Systems, and near the end of his career very large motor drives for electric and hybrid ground-based mass transit vehicles for BAE Systems Controls. He was awarded patents for his work in hybrid vehicle design. He did the original design work for Ithaco's reaction wheels, which stabilize spacecraft in orbit. Peter married Janet O'Connor of Ithaca and they had one child in 1989. In 2019, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he died in Ithaca on June 3 2020, age 64.