Emeritus Professor Bartels Passes at 87

    Date Posted: 
    Tuesday, October 11, 2016

    Peter H. Bartels Passes Away at Age 87.

    Dr. Peter H. Bartels,  Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona, passed away peacefully on Sept. 24 at age 87. He was a pioneer in microscopy and a founding member of the University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center (now known as the College of Optical Sciences).

    Peter was born in 1929 in Danzig, Germany, and he received a Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Göttingen in 1954. He then joined the faculty at the University of Giessen and later worked for the Ernst Leitz Optical Co., where he became Director of Research and Development.

    He came to the University of Arizona in 1968 and almost immediately started forging alliances with the fledgling College of Medicine, eventually holding joint appointments in the Departments of Pathology and Microbiology and Medical Technology and the University of Arizona Cancer Center, as well as with Optical Sciences, Computer Sciences and Bioengineering on the main campus.

    Many of today’s exciting areas of cancer research and clinical practice can be traced back to Peter’s work decades ago. He was a true pioneer in image processing, pattern recognition, self-learning computer programs and machine recognition of tumor cells. These methods require big data, massively parallel computers and fast data acquisition — things we take for granted today but which didn't exist in the sixties and seventies when Peter envisioned them. Lacking the crucial tools, he marshalled the talent at the Optical Sciences Center to build them. With colleagues such as Roland Shack and Richard Shoemaker, he built an ultrafast scanning microscope and a powerful array of computers to process data from it, and he developed the algorithms and theoretical concepts needed to extract biomedical information from the data.

    His work was widely recognized by the scientific community. As early as 1970 the International Academy of Cytology named him an Honorary Fellow, and in 1998 he received  the Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Society for Diagnostic Quantitative Histopathology. Among other awards, he also received a prestigious Outstanding Investigator Grant from the National Cancer Institute, allowing him six years to conduct broad-ranging, visionary research, unfettered by the need to write proposals.

    Peter H. Bartels at his 50th wedding anniversary

    Peter H. Bartels at his 50th wedding anniversary. Photo courtesy of Hubert Bartels.