Advertisement

 Peter Joseph Wilhelm Debye

Advertisement

Peter Joseph Wilhelm Debye

Birth
Maastricht, Maastricht Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Death 2 Nov 1966 (aged 82)
Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York, USA
Burial Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York, USA
Memorial ID 1688 View Source
Suggest Edits

Nobel Prize Recipient. Peter Debye, a Dutch-American physical chemist and physicist, received world-wide notoriety after being awarded the 1936 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, according to the Nobel Prize Committee, "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." Since 1916, he received 47 nominations to be a candidate for this coveted award. Born Petrus Josephus Wilhelmus Debye, he was educated in his hometown Dutch schools before entering Aachen Institute of Technology, earning a degree in electrical technology in 1905. This led to his appointment as an Assistant in Technical Mechanics at the Aachen Technological Institute, where he worked for two years. In 1906 he accepted a similar position in Germany in Theoretical Physics at Munich University. He earned his Ph.D. in Physics in 1908 at the Munich University and qualified as a University lecturer in 1910. The next year, he accepted a position in Switzerland as Professor of Theoretical Physics at Zurich University. In 1912 he returned to The Netherlands and was appointed Professor of Theoretical Physics at Utrecht University. In 1914 he moved back to Germany to the University of Göttingen to head the Theoretical Department of the Physical Institute. Later, he became Director of the entire Institute and lectured on experimental physics until 1920. In 1915 Professor Debye became editor of a German scientific periodical, “Physical Journal” and maintained this post until 1940. In 1920 he accepted the position of Professor of Physics, and Principal of the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich. Two of his most significant achievements were made in 1923. He and Erich Hückel extended 1903 Nobel Prize recipient , Svante Arrhenius’s theory of the dissociation of the positively and negatively charged atoms of salts in solution, proving that the ionization is complete, not partial. From this research, the Debye–Hückel equation or law was made. The same year, he expanded and described American physicist and 1927 Nobel Prize recipient, Arthur Holly Compton's newly discovered Compton’s Effect. Returning to Germany in 1927, he accepted the position of Professor of Physics at Leipzig. In 1934 he succeeded Albert Einstein as 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, and it was during this time he received the Nobel Prize in 1936. As World War II began, he was not pleased with the political climate in Europe, thus left in 1939, becoming in 1940 a Professor of Chemistry and Principal of the Chemistry Department of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He became a member of the Alpha Chi Sigma fraternity. In 1946 he became an American citizen. In 1952 Professor Debye submitted his resignation as Head of the Chemistry Department at Cornell University and was later appointed Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Cornell University, being able to do research until his death. Besides the Nobel Prize, he holds the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society from London, the Franklin Medal, the Faraday Medal, the Lorentz Medal of the Royal Netherlands Academy, the Max Planck Medal in 1950 awarded by the West Germany Physical Society, the Willard Gibbs Medal from Chicago in 1949, the Kendall Award in 1957, the Nichols Medal in 1961, and the Priestley Medal of the American Chemical Society in 1963. He was appointed Kommandeur des Ordens Leopold II in 1956. He received Honorary Doctorates from nine universities in the United States and seven from British and European universities. He lectured and was associated with a host of universities world-wide such as the United States, Great Britain, Europe, USSR, India, Columbia, and Argentina. Professor Debye married and the couple had a son and a daughter. His daughter stayed in Berlin instead of coming to the United States. His son Peter became a physicist and collaborated in his father’s research. Having chronic coronary disease, he died from a second coronary occlusion at the age of 82. The Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry, which was named in his honor, recognizes outstanding research in physical chemistry and is one of the American Chemical Society's most prestigious awards.

Bio by: Linda Davis


Family Members

Spouse

Flowers

In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees

Advertisement

Advertisement

How famous was Peter Joseph Wilhelm Debye?

Current rating:

30 votes

Sign-in to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 1688
  • Find a Grave, database and images (www.findagrave.com/memorial/1688/peter-joseph_wilhelm-debye : accessed ), memorial page for Peter Joseph Wilhelm Debye (24 Mar 1884–2 Nov 1966), Find a Grave Memorial ID 1688, citing Pleasant Grove Cemetery, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .