ChemistryWestern Science

Professor Peter Guthrie Passes

After a valiant battle with Gillian-Barre Syndrome, Peter Guthrie, in his 76th year, died at University Hospital, on September 19, 2017, surrounded by his beloved family: Muriel his wife of 52 years, his daughter Heather Phillips and husband Matthew of London, son James and wife Joke of Burlington.

After graduating from Saugeen District High School, Peter did his post secondary education on full scholarships: BSc from UWO, PhD from Harvard, post doctoral year at Princeton. He commenced teaching and research at the Chemistry Department, UWO, in 1969 and continued research when he became Emeritus Professor in 2010. Some of his many awards include E.W.R. Staecie Memorial Fellowship, Killam Research Fellowship, The Florence Bucke Science Prize, UWO Distinguished Research Professor, Canadian Institute of Chemistry Medal, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Peter and Muriel combined travel with his presentations at International Chemistry Conferences. Peter’s second passion was History and he was never happier then when he spent entire days at Museums around the world.

Peter was a devoted husband and father and he considered himself incredibly fortunate to have a career he loved. A Celebration of his life will be held at a later date. Donations to Doctors Without Borders ( would be greatly appreciated.

We all agree Peter will be missed, and some additional comments from colleagues are assembled below:

Peter was a prince of a person and scientist. I first met him well over 40 years ago on an NSERC GSC and my admiration for him only increased as I got to know him after moving to Western. The presence of a potential colleague and friend like Peter was important in my moving to Western. With sadness but great memories.

Peter has been a wonderful colleague. His depth of knowledge was astounding. I used to think of him as "Peter-ipedia" and spent many hours in his office discussing various aspects of chemistry.

I had the pleasure of working for him in the summer of 1970 after my second year in the chemistry program and as a colleague for 24 years. He was one of the brightest chemists I have known and a fine human being. He leaves a legacy of outstanding work.

In department colloquium Peter was exceptional at piercing through fluff and homing in on key aspects.

I have known Peter Guthrie since the late 1960s, when we both joined Western. He was one of the brightest and hardest-working people I have ever met. In recent decades, we often discussed his use of its quantum chemistry methods to predict thermodynamic properties for his unique approach to predict organic reactivity. A true gentleman and a scholar.

Whenever I needed a foothold into some obscure area of chemistry and I was lost in the literature, Peter would quickly get me on track and offer additional insights.