Peter K. Weyl, a Stony Brook University oceanographer who wrote one of the field’s early textbooks and many papers about the physical processes at work in ocean waters, died May 22 at Stony Brook University Hospital. He was 92.
The cause was heart failure, said a daughter, Lisa Wyler, of Bellevue, Washington.
Weyl, trained as a nuclear physicist, published his “Introduction to the Marine Environment” in 1970, explaining currents to a generation of nonspecialists. The book was translated into three languages and was used by the navies of five countries, according to Weyl’s family.
Other work explored the mechanics of the ocean’s role in climate change and epochal swings between ice ages and warm periods. Farther afield, he speculated about conditions in a thin layer of ocean water in Precambrian seas that, he believed, would have permitted concentration of “organic aggregates,” then simple blue-green algae, then more complicated multicellular animals.
In the 1950s and ’60s his career took him from Brazil’s flagship physics research center to oil giant Shell. He moved to academia, teaching first at the University of Oregon and then, in 1966, at Stony Brook’s Marine Sciences and Research Center, where he was a founding professor. Now the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, it was Weyl’s professional base until his retirement in 1995.
“He was fearless in the scientific sense,” said Malcolm Bowman, a Stony Brook oceanographer. “If he had an idea, he pursued it.”
Klaus Peter Weyl -- as a young man, he changed his first and middle names -- was born May 6, 1924, in München Gladbach, Germany, into a family made wealthy by textile manufacturing. He was the son of Else Fleischer Weyl and Eric Weyl, a technical manager at the family’s factory.
The Nazis forced the family to sell the factory at a price the family now estimates was 10 percent of its worth and banned Weyl from attending the neighborhood school because he was a Jew. He escaped to England in 1938, but one of his grandmothers was likely murdered in a concentration camp.
After a stint in an internment camp there, along with other German immigrants, Weyl moved with his family to Jackson Heights, Queens. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School and enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving with distinction in Europe and the Pacific.
He met his wife, the former Muriel Reisman, while both attended the University of New Hampshire. He moved on to doctoral work at the University of Chicago at the start of the global nuclear race, when the U.S. government was eager to encourage specialists in the field. The couple married June 22, 1947. She still lives in the couple’s Stony Brook home.
Besides his wife and daughter Lisa, Weyl is survived by a son, Stephen Weyl, also of Bellevue, Washington, and another daughter, Ruth Geall, of London, England.
Weyl was buried May 25 at Washington Memorial Park Cemetery in Mount Sinai.