Peter Wadsworth.

Peter Wadsworth. (Illustration by Claudia Escobar/KQED)

I didn’t know Peter Wadsworth, but I wish I had known him. Here are his vital statistics:

Peter Wadsworth, age 38. Attended Reed College and Harvard. Studied History, Psychology, Chinese, Religion. Spoke some Mandarin. Spoke some Coptic.

Spoke some Mandarin and some Coptic. That’s when I began to appreciate Wadsworth’s deep intellect. He wrote on his LinkedIn Profile the he “designed non-traditional drones for private consultants.” He worked on drone projects that involved VTOL — vertical take-off and landing — extended range and payload capacity and a mix of fuel sources and propellant. Drones using these technologies can map large areas or deliver small loads. What this means is that Peter Wadsworth was a thinker in an emerging field of drone technology and application. He saw the potential for technology and how it could be helpful.


A thinker. That’s what Wadsworth was. A friend of his — who would only talk to KQED if we agreed not to use his name because he wanted to honor how Wadsworth “didn’t like to draw any attention to himself” — says, “he was one of the smartest guys I knew (literally genius level in my estimation), and always wanted to be part of a big idea, from behind the scenes. He’s had impact in the early stages of at least one of the biggest California tech success stories, but no one would know because that’s not how he wants to be known. Wicked nice guy with a big heart and always willing to make time for others.”

Wadsworth’s high school literature teacher, Steven Craig, wrote a blog post about his former student upon hearing the news of his death: “His papers were grammatically flawed but philosophically insightful, and I pushed him to explore the boundaries of his thinking,” Craig writes. “As he would sit in my room long after class to discuss Oscar Wilde (a personal favorite for both of us), Shakespeare or Huxley, I knew I had this kid hooked. He was sort of like my prized protégé, comprised of an intellect that had the cutting ability to see through the bullshit but the passionate heart to embrace all the world had to offer us nonetheless.”

Wadsworth’s good friend, Tammy Tasoff, a dental student at UCSF, tells the San Francisco Chronicle how he would help her with her computer and her organization. “He’d make me food. He took really good care of me. He was like my big brother.” Wadsworth’s Facebook page reveals that he even helped Tasoff gather teeth to study dentistry: “A friend of mine is in dental school and I know a few of you are dentists, then there are a few married to dentists and all of you (should) be seeing dentists!” his post on the subject says. “If you can ask them for teeth (adult human please) that she can practice on it would be pretty fantastic to help out her and if there is a surplus, her classmates. Message me for details….thanks!”

Peter’s Facebook page is also filled with posts about the cutting edges of technology and invention: 3D printing technology, Tor sites, conductive thread, contact lenses with zoom capability. He also posted environmental articles about the drought and smog in Beijing. He described the novel Cloud Atlas as “one of the most amazing books I have ever read.”

Peter Wadsworth's cat
Peter Wadsworth’s cat. (via Facebook)

And he obviously loved cats. Wadsworth’s Facebook cover image is a picture of a sprawling cat with the title “King Aeneas” by the photo. There are many posts about cat rescue organizations and cute articles about cats.

I asked the friend who wanted to remain anonymous what the world has lost in losing Wadsworth to the Ghost Ship Fire. He says, “The world has a lost a person of high regard for his actions, himself and others. He did the right thing, because, well, why would you do it any other way? The world may have lost Pete, but Pete hasn’t left the world. He’s shared himself with so many people that the world is a better place for having had Pete in it for a mere 38 years. We carry those characteristics with us and will continue to pass them on to others as Pete did.”


For more of our tributes to the victims of the Oakland warehouse fire, please visit our remembrances page here.

For a printable poster of the illustration above, see here.

Peter Wadsworth, Thinker in Emerging Tech With ‘A Big Heart’ 27 December,2016Polly Stryker


Polly Stryker

Polly Stryker is an Assignment Editor for KQED’s statewide news service, The California Report. She and reporter/host Rachael Myrow produce the KQED podcast, Love in the Digital Age.

Polly has worked for a variety of news and public affairs programs, including  The California Report’s “Health Dialogues” and Forum on KQED. Before that, she was a producer on AirTalk with Larry Mantle on KPCC radio, and These Days on KPBS. Polly’s work has won  awards from the Radio and Television News Directors Association of Northern California, the Society of Professional Journalists (Southern California and Northern California chapters), the Radio and Television News Association. She’s also won a Taste Award.

She considers herself to be a citizen of the world, having grown up in Cairo before coming to the United States. Polly speaks Arabic and can say, “I’d like a martini, please” in Swahili.