We are saddened to share news of the death of Professor Emeritus Peter Williams, who passed away in London, Ontario, on January 14, 2019. Dr. Williams joined the Department of Geography in 1969, after degrees from the universities of Cambridge, Oslo, and Stockholm, and over a decade working as a Research Scientist at the National Research Council of Canada. Peter was a geotechnical scientist with expertise in the physics and mechanics of freezing soils, and he had a strong focus on collaborating with engineers and other applied sciences. He made substantial contributions to our understanding of frost heaving in soils. Peter built a network of collaborators including relevant politicians and government officers and scientists, to ensure that his research was used to better understand problems associated with freezing soils and to work towards implemented solutions. This included advising the Berger Inquiry into the Mackenzie Valley Gas Pipeline proposal and providing advice on geotechnical issues in northern oil and gas developments. For most of the 1980s he ran a field-scale laboratory experiment at a facility in Caen, France, to examine the effects of frost heave on a buried pipeline. His most lasting contribution was The Frozen Earth: an introduction to geocryology(1989) written with his colleague Michael Smith. The book remains the standard text in English for graduate students studying permafrost. Peter retired in 1995, but continued as a Distinguished Research Professor.
Colleagues remember Peter as someone who consistently demonstrated amazing devotion to science, high respect for all faculty and staff, and a strong commitment to values, which encouraged civility even in trying circumstances. Under his direction, the Geotechnical Science Labs at Carleton grew, contributing to the recruitment of other colleagues who helped build our department.