William Parker Oliver

December 23, 1940July 14, 2020

William P. Oliver

William Parker Oliver (“Bill”) died quietly in the evening on July 14, 2020 at his home in Weston, MA, surrounded by his family. He was still youthful at 79, having maintained an active mind and body throughout his life.

His professional life was devoted to research in experimental particle physics over a span of 52 years. He earned his B.S. (1962) and Ph.D. (1969) degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He spent the majority of his career at Tufts University, where he was a professor from 1976 to 2016 and professor emeritus thereafter. At Tufts, he served as Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy for seven years, among other positions. He felt his biggest professional accomplishment was the discovery of the tau neutrino, the sixth and maybe final lepton to be discovered. The discovery was the result of an experiment conducted around the turn of the century with colleagues from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Japan. He said his largest disappointment in his professional career was not finding proton decay (which no one else has observed to date). In addition to being a scientist, he was an avid reader of history and biography. He enjoyed classical music and joined his wife in supporting the Handel & Haydn Society.

Bill had a life-long interest in track and field. He completed the Boston Marathon four times, in the years 2004 through 2007. Surgery and injury prevented him from marathon running after 2007, but he continued to exercise at the gym, climbing hundreds of floors each session on the StairMaster. In his later years, he also developed interests in alpine skiing and golf. He and his wife always walked the golf course carrying their clubs on their backs; they did not believe in riding a cart. Never a smoker and still hiking a couple of miles each day around Weston this spring during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bill was surprised to learn in mid-May that he had an aggressive and advanced stage of lung cancer, to which he ultimately succumbed.

He was born on December 23, 1940 into a U.S. Navy family. His father was the late Captain Warren E. Oliver. His mother, the late Ann E. Oliver, was the daughter of the late Rear Admiral Ernest M. Pace, Jr. Bill was predeceased by his sister Nancy O. Nichols. He is survived by his beloved wife of 45 years, Winifred I. Li, his children, Jeffries L. Oliver-Li (and wife Jennifer L. Oliver-Li) of Boston, Parker L. Oliver-Li of Brookline and Alisan L. Oliver-Li (and husband Mark I. Shpizner) of New York City, his grandchildren, Sophia, Claire and a third granddaughter expected this fall, his sister Kitty Irvine and numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

The burial will be private. A service of remembrance will be held at the First Parish Church in Weston after the current COVID-19 pandemic ends. Bill has requested that, in lieu of flowers, contributions kindly be made to Death with Dignity National Center, 520 SW Sixth Avenue, Suite 1220, Portland, OR 97204,

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William Parker Oliver

have a memory or condolence to add?

Kim Knox

July 26, 2020

Always a gentleman, a bright face to encounter in the hallways of Tufts University, and a dear colleague.
My deepest sympathy to the family.

Hisako Hiratsuka

July 19, 2020


You have run your marathon too fast to get to the goal too quickly.
I wish I could have more piano time with you. It is my fond memory.
I miss you very much. Hisako