Photography

Cynthia (Wyeth) Peterson

April 28, 1933 ~ July 8, 2020 (age 87)

Obituary

It is with a deep sadness that we report the loss of Cynthia Wyeth Peterson – she was an exceptional wife, mother, grandmother and scientist. She leaves her husband of sixty-two years Gerald and her son Tycho (Michelle) and grandchildren William and Annabelle, and her daughter Celeste (Johan) and grandchildren Siri and Anna. She was a long-time resident of Middle Haddam, CT. She was born on April 28th 1933 in Chestnut Hill, PA to Francis and Helen Wyeth (Gafney) and was predeceased by her parents and brother John Wyeth. Cynthia and Gerald were married in Oslo, Norway in 1957 and lived there for the subsequent year, where she worked at the Astrophysics Institute.

Cynthia was a Professor of Physics at the University of Connecticut for 49 years and a pioneer for women in science. She specialized in teaching Astronomy. Prior to that, she taught at Wesleyan University, and did research at Yale University and the Harvard University Blue Hill Atmospheric Observatory. She had an undergraduate degree in Physics and Mathematics from Bryn Mawr College and a PhD in Experimental Physics from Cornell University.

She developed a love for science in high school working at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and in 1950 was a finalist in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search.

Her career was notable for both outreach and research. On outreach, she shared her enthusiasm for science with people of all ages, giving lectures and star parties at libraries, schools and clubs. She was also one of the founders of KAST, a summer science camp for elementary school students. She was one of three regular participants on an engaging radio show, The Scientists, and the media for interpretation of astronomical events frequently consulted her. Over the decades, she did research and published papers in the fields of astronomy, chemistry and biophysics, which she continued well into her 80s. She also developed a lab in archeological dating. Along the way, she mentored many students.

Cynthia’s wit and good humor were well known. She loved doing projects, often science based, with her children and grandchildren. As a hobby, she and her husband traveled the world collecting eleven total solar eclipses. In her forties, she became an avid runner. In the end, she often finished last, but got the trophy for the oldest runner. Later in her life, she took up downhill skiing to be with her children. She was a friend of nature and enjoyed hiking, canoeing and being outdoors. She was also an accomplished harmonica player and was extremely fond of folk music.

There will be a private burial service for the immediate family. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society and American Association of University Women (AAUW). 

 

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