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Peter A. Peterson papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 9/9/69

Scope and Content

This collection (1938-2002, undated) includes biographical information, journal articles, published papers, news clippings, lecture notes, and photographs that document the career of Peter A. Peterson. Much of the materials detail his research into corn genetics and cytogenetics. Course materials provide evidence of how Peterson taught advanced genetics and plant breeding courses at Iowa State including many notes and handouts related to his course on cytogenetics. Research files include information on corn breeding and genetics projects, avocado research, grant proposals and reports, and international collaborations.


  • 1940-2016, undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research. This collection is stored offsite. Please contact the department at least 3 working days in advance.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Peter A. Peterson was born to Andrew Peterson and Paschalia Economon in Bristol, Connecticut, on March 17, 1925. He graduated with his B.S. (1947) in biology and chemistry from Tufts University after serving in the Navy at the Bethesda Naval Hospital during World War II. He earned his Ph.D. (1953) in genetics, botany and zoology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Following graduation, Peterson was hired as Assistant Geneticist (1953-1956) at the University of California Riverside. Peterson joined the faculty at Iowa State University as Assistant Professor (1956-1959) in the Department of Genetics. He was promoted to Associate Professor (1959-1968) with a joint appointment in the Departments of Genetics and Agronomy. He was named Professor (1968-2013). He was awarded emeritus status upon his retirement in 2013.

Peterson was widely known for his research in studying the transmission of genetic traits via corn. His lifelong research focused on transposable elements and by using operational test of his own devising to discover a number of transposable element systems such as the En system, Cuna (Cu), Cycler (Cy), and Ubiquitous (Uq).

Peterson was the author of numerous research articles on corn genetics as well as the book Maize Genetics and Breeding in the 20th Century (call number SB191 M2 P4175 1999). He received several awards including the Distinguished Iowa Scientist Award (1988) from the Iowa Academy of Science, the Burlington Northern Foundation Award for Career Achievement in Research (1992), and the National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders Award for Genetics and Plant Breeding (1994).

Peterson married Sally Rohrer on Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and together they had two children, Sara and Susan. Peterson died on September 7, 2017.


4.41 Linear Feet (10 document boxes and 1 half-document box)


Peter A. Peterson began as a geneticist and professor at Iowa State University in 1956. His research included genetics, genomes, cytogenetics, plant breeding, and maize. This collection contains biographical information, academic papers, course materials, and other materials related to his career at Iowa State.


This collection is organized into three series:

Series 1, Academic career, 1940-1999, undated (alphabetical)

Series 2, Publications, 1947-2002, undated (chronological)

Series 3, Research, 1938-2000, undated (chronological)

Physical Location

This collection is stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives at least 3 working days in advance.

Items in related collections

RS 9/9. Iowa State University. Department of Agronomy records, 1903-2013

RS 9/9/69. Peter A. Peterson papers, 1940-2016, undated
July 1, 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672