Remembering P. Buford Price 1932-2021

Remembering  P. Buford Price 1932-2021
January 26, 2022

Professor P. Buford Price, Berkeley Physics faculty and Former SSL Director, passed away on December 28, 2021.

Buford 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.

Buford contributed his talents to several prominent leadership roles at Berkeley. In addition to his position on the faculty of the Department of Physics, where he was a professor until his retirement in 2002, Buford served as Director of the Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory (1979-1985), Physics Department Chair (1987-1992), Dean of Physical Sciences (1992-2001), and Professor of the Graduate School (2002-2021).  

Buford’s list of scientific accomplishments spanned an astonishing range of disciplines. Along with colleagues Robert Fleischer and Robert Walker, 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. Buford was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in 1975. Buford 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. Buford 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, in turn, led to highly productive work, later in his career, in glaciology, paleoclimatology, and the study of extremophile bacteria living in Antarctic ice. These are only a few of the topics on which he worked over approximately five decades of research.  

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. Buford’s sunny optimism and huge smile will be missed. 

Survivors include Jo Ann B. Price, his loving spouse of 63 years, their children and families: P. Buford Price, III (Bo), his spouse Cecilia Bartolucci, their children Lavinia and Eric of Munich, Germany; Heather A. Price, her daughter Haley Dixon of Berkeley; Pamela M. Wright (Pam), her spouse Peter E. Wright, their children Audra and Cory of Dallas, Texas; Alison P. James (Ali), her spouse Matthew L. James, their children Alec and Nick of Millbrook, New York. 

Donations in honor of P. Buford Price can be made to The P. Buford Price Endowment Fund in Physics.

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