Peter J. W. Debye

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Peter Jospeh William Debye (1884-1966) was a Dutch physicist and physical chemist. The Debye unit of electric dipole moment was named in his honour.

Debye was born on March 24, 1884 in in Maastricht, Netherlands, and attended Aachen University of Technology where he received a degree in electrical engineering in 1905. In 1906, his mentor Arnold Sommerfeld was appointed to the faculty at Munich and Debye went with him and earned a Ph.D. in 1908 with a dissertation on radiation pressure.

In 1936, Debye won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "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."[1]

In 1939, Debye travelled to the United States to deliver the Baker Lectures at Cornell University. He then emigrated from Germany in early 1940 to become a chemistry professor at Cornell and chaired the department for 10 years. In 1946, Debye became a U.S. citizen. Debye retired from Cornell in 1952, but continued his research there until his death on November 2, 1966.

War activities and controversies[edit]

From 2006 to 2008, Debye's activities in Germany during World War II have been debated regarding possible antisemitism or Nazi sympathy. Cornell's department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology issued a report concluding there was no evidence of either.[2] In 2008, the Terlouw Commission also cleared Debye.[3]


External links[edit]