Dr. Peter Norton

Norton, Dr. Peter…  


It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Dr. Peter Robert Norton on May 10th 2022 in Victoria Hospital, London, Ontario at the age of 79. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Gillian, his son Michael and daughter Kathy, his granddaughters Erica, Naomi, and Emma, and by his sister, Juliet.

Peter was born in a small village in war-time England to parents Robert and Ruth Norton. He attended the University of Nottingham and obtained a B.Sc. in 1963 and a PhD in Chemistry in 1966. He and Gillian travelled to Ottawa in 1967 intending to spend just two years there to further his research career. They both fell in love with life in Canada and lived in Ontario for the next 55 years. His research career took him from the National Research Council, Ottawa, to McMaster University, Hamilton, to Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories and finally to Western University in London where he was a professor and research scientist from 1986 until his retirement in 2011. His scientific career was important to him, and he took rightful pride in recognition bestowed on him by the likes of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Institute of Chemistry. His real passion, however, was mentoring students and young professionals and he drew great pleasure from watching their success.

In 1991 he and his wife bought an old wooden cottage at Bruce Beach near Kincardine on the waterfront of Lake Huron. In 2000 they built a house on the site and he and Gillian retired there. The Bruce Beach house was truly his happy place and he loved walking the beach and the wonderful views of the lake and sunsets from the deck, preferably with a drink in hand and surrounded by the company of family and friends.

Peter embraced Canadian winters and loved skiing and snowshoeing on the Niagara Escarpment in the Collingwood area.  When home he was a lover of classical music, especially chamber music. His music collection evolved from vinyl, to CDs, to streaming, and he attended live concerts whenever possible. He had a passion for sports, particularly soccer and F1 Racing, and he still followed the FA cup and UEFA Champions league from England.

He was intensely proud of his two children and their accomplishments and delighted in his 3 granddaughters who live in Edmonton and Vancouver. He made the most out of every visit and followed their exploits.

Peter was cultured, intelligent, curious, and kind. He was a great story-teller and raconteur and could entertain friends and strangers alike with humorous anecdotes and explanations of scientific phenomena. He loved good food, good drink, and good conversation. Astronomy was another passion of Peter’s, and sometimes an evening’s entertainment ended with stargazing over the lake through his telescope. Peter was a big personality who made an impression on every room he entered.

He will be greatly missed.

No service is planned at this time. A celebration of his life may be arranged in future. Arrangements entrusted with Cremation London & Middlesex, 519-858-2467. Online condolences shared at www.cremationlondon.com

  1. To the honour of a gentleman who meant a lot to the people around him. You never left, you will always be in our hearts.
    Rest in peace and see you in the next life.

  2. Gillian and family.
    It was great pleasure to have known Peter for the past 53 years. We shared his passion for the great Canadian outdoors both summer and winter; his love of science and debate; good meals and a glass or two or wine. We met for the first time in Ottawa in 1968 and Janet and I raised our family at the same time as he and Gillian raised theirs. It has been a life long friendship and an honour to know him. He was there to support us through the loss of of daughter coming to assist at the drop of a hat.
    He will indeed be missed.

  3. Hello Gill,
    I received news of Peter’s death and wanted to express my sympathies to your family. The Morrisons have wonderful memories of the times we spent together and I know Jim and Irene felt that even though we were not related by blood you were an important part of our extended family. Peter had a beautiful, joyful spirit and his sense of humour was delightful. Hard to believe he is gone.
    Peter will be missed❤️❤️❤️❤️

  4. I worked in the same department at AECL in Chalk River with Peter and, as his obituary suggests, he was a big personality, always with something erudite to say. I was also exposed to his new CD system, when he would start a piece of classical music with the warning that the new clean sound would suddenly start full bore, with no hissing or surface noise that we were used to. Dinner parties were always full of great food and stories. I was often invited on cross country ski outings with Peter and Gillian and these are cherished memories. After Pete and Gill left Deep River I lost contact with them, but was always eager to hear any news through common friends. News of Peter’s death is very sad for me and I hope these shared memories will bring some comfort to Gill, Michael and Kathy.

  5. Peter was a legend as a scientist but more importantly a lovely man. I admired him and was grateful to have been is colleague for 16 years, cosupervising a number of graduate students. I also loved the way he “retired” – you captured it nicely in the tribute above. After the sadness of his loss I hope you will all be able to celebrate his life and his legacy, especially the legacy of his children, grandchildren and hundreds of former graduate students. Sorry for you loss….I will raise a glass to Peter! Mark, Angela and family.

  6. Dear Gill,
    Our deepest sympathy at this time. We will always fondly remember those lunches, theatre trips and get-togethers with you and Peter. Peter’s humour, enthusiasm and knowledge of local beers was unparalleled. We will certainly miss him. Helena & John

  7. So sorry for your loss. I knew Peter as a fellow member of the Morrison academic family, and kept in touch with him over the years. My husband and I were planning to have lunch with Peter and Gill and some others at Christmas when we were in Vancouver, but we had to bow out due to colds which we did not want to spread. So sorry to have missed the opportunity to see Peter’s smiling face and hear a tale or two, one last time.

  8. Gillian We are so sorry for your loss. Staff and I enjoyed a memorable afternoon on your deck overlooking the lake with you, Peter and a glass of wine/beer. He entertained us with many interesting stories. We consider ourselves fortunate to have that lovely memory. RIP Peter

  9. Dear Gilles,
    it is with great sadness that I heard of the passing of Peter. Although we overlapped and collaborated only for a few years during my brief time in Canada, I remember him as utmost generous and supportive not only to his students and group members but also to his colleagues, even if they were located in another department like myself. I truly enjoyed our discussions and remember with fondness that I finally met someone who fully shared my views on simple believes, while embracing life like few others do. These past two years, he was on my mind quite often, because I restarted to work on things he had inspired me to look at almost 20 years ago. And he will certainly stay on my mind as a role model for the next 20 years. I wish you and your family much strength for the time to come.

  10. Dear Gill, we are so sorry to hear of Peter’s passing. We enjoyed his company greatly over the years at Western when you and I worked in OHS and later socially in London and California. Peter enjoyed life on all levels and contributed greatly to the world. He will be missed! Our deepest sympathy to you and your family Gill and all who loved him.

  11. Peter was the first person to knock at my office door when I moved in Canada in winter 2007. I will always remember his excitation and big smile abut my arrival, asking me when he could ‘land me some photons’! We collaborated until he left for retirement on several projects and he transmitted me many of his instruments that I am maintaining like if they were vintage swiss clocks. Reciprocally I organized for him a CSC synposium in his honor and he was very happy about this special day where his old time scientist friends, including a Nobel laureate came from all over the world just for the day giving seminars to honor his accomplishements many of his younger students were also giving talks. A memorable moment
    My deepest sympathy to Gil and his kids.

  12. My sincere condolences. Peter was very energetic in research. He proposed some collaboration research ideas in a hallway of our chemistry building upon my arrival at Western. Then we started these.

    He will be greatly missed.

    Zhifeng Ding

  13. I have fond memories of many lunches at the Grad Club at Western with Peter and a bunch of other chemists. He was always ready with a good story and sage scientific advice when asked. Our condolences to the Norton family from myself and others at Surface Science Western whom Peter had many interactions and collaborations with.

  14. We are so sorry to hear of Peter’s passing. I am a retired staff member in the chemistry department at Western University. It was a pleasure to work with Peter , he always had time to chat. We shared the love of Lake Huron, it’s beaches and sunsets, and now my husband and I are retired we continue to enjoy those sunsets, we retired in Grand Bend on Lake Huron. Our deepest condolences Gillian and to your family. Luv, Sandy & Jim McCaw

  15. I am so sorry to hear this sad news. Peter helped me get my own research program running when I arrived at Western 20 some years ago and we collaborated on a couple of major equipment grants – I have fond memories of a trip to California to demo atomic force microscopes. My sincere condolences to his family.

  16. My sincere condolences to all the family and friends. I always remember Peter’s positive attitude towards life and how he always encourages us to enjoy research and the small things in life. I am certain that my time at UWO and in Canada wouldn’t be the same without him. We lost a great person but we keep all the stories, memories, and lessons he gave us. Best regards to Gill and the family.

  17. Peter was one of my first collaborators at Western since I joined the department in 2005. His expertise and mentorship to me as a young faculty at that time really impacted my early career substantially in research diversity. He is such a humorous, knowledgeable and passionate colleague to work with. He will be truly missed.

  18. Dear Gillian and Family,
    My sincere condolences to you and your family. I will always remember Peter’s friendly and outgoing personality. He was a fanastic person! I have fond memories of his stories of his advertures. He will be missed.

  19. I was very sad when I heard of the death of Peter. He and I studied Chemistry at Nottingham University in the same cohort of students – BSc (1960 – 1963 and PhD 1963 – 1966). This provided each of us with a chemical knowledge and curiosity to know more.about this fascinating subject. In consequence both Peter and I pursued careers in academia; I stayed in the UK and Peter achieved scientific distinction in Canada, notably in his investgations of the chemical nature of surfaces.
    Both Pam and I send our deepest sympathy to Gill and all the famiy – without doubt Peter’s death will leave a great hole in all your lives.

  20. It’s a long time ago that we knew the Nortons but it was a time of considerable greatness for the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories and Peter was very much a part of that. As that began to change, like many others, he moved the pursuit in his scientific excellence elsewhere and our connection with the Nortons faded. Still we remember Peter warmly and appreciatively and were sad to hear of his passing.

  21. To Peter’s family:

    I got the sad news on the same day of my son’s college graduation, May 14, 2022. I told my son the sad news. He said to me that he remembered Peter Norton. Even he was 8 when we left London, Ontario. During the graduation ceremony, all the memories of Peter flashed back as happened yesterday.

    I will always remember that:

    It was Peter:
    ⁃ Who gently put the purple sash on me on my graduation day on Oct.24, 2008.
    ⁃ Who introduced me to the tribology, where is a field less traveled but full of joyful achievements and stresses.
    ⁃ Who invited me to a French dinner with 4 courses, which was my first formal western dinner.
    ⁃ Who showed me the research ideas can be raised at the coffee break during the witty conversation.
    ⁃ Who defined what a western gentleman should look like. He solved problems using a civilized and very thoughtful way.
    ⁃ Who cared for people, even the people far away from his life.
    ⁃ Who hated the propaganda to fool the public.
    ⁃ Who separated the government and people. He showed the greatest sympathy to the people ruled under the dictatorship.
    ⁃ Who loved the fish and chips. Once I ordered the fish and chips in Paris. I was asked why I was ordering a British dish in France, I proudly told my friend that my professor was a British Canadian and he loved the dish.
    So long! My dearest professor! You are not physically in my life, but you are everywhere in my life. You will be greatly missed and your legend will never die!

  22. It is with great sadness that I learned of Peter’s passing today. I was at SSW between 1986 and 1989 and met Peter when ISW was being set-up at UWO. I enjoyed many an interaction with Peter while at Western and later on during the years as he was on the advisory committee of my lab at Toronto. Peter seemed to know everyone. I still recall attending an AVS conference when every minute he would be waving and saying hi to someone. Please accept my (belated) condolences.

  23. Very Sad. Peter was not a close friend but he was always good company over coffees in the “coffee room”. Very fond memories of those year at Nottingham

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