He was born at Salisbury in England and lived as a child in Uganda. Most of his early years, however, were passed around Hanover, New Hampshire, USA, where he received his introduction to research at Dartmouth College and his A.B. with high honors in biology in 1965. He completed the Ph.D. in zoology at Duke University in 1972 for research on the chemistry and biology of tropical African lakes. He also conducted research at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, and the Max-Planck-Institut für Limnologie, Plön. Most of his professional life was spent at the University of Michigan, where he was Professor of Biology and Research Scientist in the Center for Great Lakes and Aquatic Sciences when he died while conducting research at Kisumu, Kenya.
His keen intuition enabled Kilham to see lakes in an imaginative new light. He shared his insights generously with others, and engaged in mutualistic collaboration with many colleagues, notably Robert Hecky, David Tilman, and his wife Susan Soltau Kilham. He was a prodigious field worker, who was content to spend months at a time studying African lakes accompanied only by a local field assistant with whom his most effective common language was KiSwahili.
This profile was written by D. A. Livingstone (Duke University).
Livingstone, D. A., 1989. In Memoriam: Peter Kilham - 1943-1989. Limnology and Oceanography 34(5):967.
Melack, J. M., 1993. Preface (unnumbered) and Bibliography of Peter Kilham. pp. 707-708. In: Peter Kilham Commemorative Issue of Limnology and Oceanography 38(3).