Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Peter Debye

March 1884, Maastricht, Netherlands - 2 November 1966, Ithaca, USA

After holding professorships in Utrecht, Zurich and Leipzig, Peter Debye was professor of physics in Berlin, director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Physics from 1934 to 1940, and a full member of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin as from 1937. He emigrated to the United States in 1940.

Debye did pioneering work on determining the structure of substances in their solid, liquid and gaseous states. In 1912 he worked on chemistry at very low temperatures and discovered the Debye law in the process. In 1915, together with Paul Scherrer (1890-1969), he developed the Debye-Scherrer method for analysing crystal lattices.

In 1936 the physicist was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on crystal physics, quantum theory and dipole theory.