In memoriam: Jon Peter Berge

Jon Peter Berge

We are sad to announce the death of Dr. Jon Peter Berge, 82, on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Louisville, Colorado. Known as ‘Peter’ to his friends and family, he was born on Feb. 4, 1935, in Madison, Wisconsin, the eldest son of Trygve Obert Berge and Martha (Pat) Johnson, both of Norwegian immigrant families. His early years were marked by the Great Depression and World War II, and his family moved frequently as a result of Trygve’s military duties. He had lasting memories of his time in Stoughton, Wisconsin; Fargo, North Dakota; Palm Springs, California; Tokyo, Japan; and Mill Valley, California. He graduated from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley in 1952 and went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he obtained his B.A. in physics (1956), M.A. (1958) and his Ph.D. (1964).

At Berkeley, he joined the Alvarez Group under Nobel Prize winner Luis Alvarez at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory and participated on the development of the Bubble Chamber. While working there, he met his future wife, Louise Holstein. They married on June 21, 1959, and had two children, Eric and Anna. In 1967, Peter obtained a postdoctoral award to work with Dr. John Mulvey in Oxford, England, while Louise obtained a fellowship for graduate study in classics there. In 1970, Peter accepted a position at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1974, he took a permanent position at Fermilab.

At Fermilab, Peter worked with the Collider Detector Facility (CDF) group and was highly regarded for his skill in writing software used to control high-energy physics experiments, including that which led to the discovery of the top quark in 1995. He remained at the lab until his retirement in 2000.

Peter lived in Batavia until 2007, when he moved to Louisville, Colorado, close to his sister Pat Muckle and his youngest brother, Mark Berge.

Peter was an active fencer and competed until the mid-1970s in fencing tournaments. He appreciated chess, good wine, fine dining, classical music and history. He was an astounding writer of endless postcards, including (post office permitting) beer coasters. He had many lifelong friends, and he was known as a generous host.

He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother David. He is survived by his sisters Patricia and Judith, his brother Mark, his children Eric and Anna, and his granddaughter Frances. Peter was cremated and buried at Green Mountain Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado, on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017.

Donations in Peter’s memory can be made to the causes he supported, including the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, Planned Parenthood, and the American Cancer Society.