Peter Debye

  • From:

    Cornell University │ Ithaca, New York

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  • Citation:

    For the theory that molecules possess permanent dipole moments.

Petrus (Peter) Josephus Wilhelmus Debye was born in 1884, at Maastricht, the Netherlands. He obtained an undergraduate degree in electrical technology in 1905 from Aachen Institute of Technology. This led to his appointment as Assistant in Technical Mechanics at the Aachen Technological Institute, where he worked for two years. In 1906, Debye obtained a similar position in Theoretical Physics at Munich University, where he became a University lecturer in 1910, after having recieved a Ph.D. in Physics in 1908.

In 1911, Dr. Debye became Professor of Theoretical Physics at Zurich University, where he remained for two years. He returned to The Netherlands in 1912 when he was appointed Professor of Theoretical Physics at Utrecht University, and in 1914 he moved to the University of Gottingen, to take charge of the Theoretical Department of the Physical Institute. Later, he became Director of the entire Institute and lectured on experimental physics until 1920.

Dr. Debye returned to Zurich in 1920, as Professor of Physics. In 1927, he transferred to Leipzig and from 1934 to 1939, he was Director of the Max Planck Institute of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin-Dahlem and Professor of Physics at the University of Berlin. In 1940, Dr. Debye moved to the United States, becoming Professor of Chemistry and Principal of the Chemistry Department of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Dr. Debye became an American citizen in 1946. He remained in this post until 1952, when he resigned his post of Head of the Chemistry Department at Cornell, and gained an appointment as Emeritus Professor of Chemistry.

In addition to his Franklin Award in 1937, Dr. Debye was honored with a Nobel prze in 1936 for his contributions to our knowledge of molecular structure through his investigations on dipole moments and on the diffraction of X-rays and electrons in gases.

Information as of 1937