1884 Maastricht (Netherlands) – 1966 Ithaca, New York (USA)
Physicist, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1936
Countries: Netherlands, USA
Peter Debye is Dutch, but primarily pursues his career in Germany. Although he is a theoretical physicist, he also makes important contributions to experimental physics. Various theories and concepts bear his name, such as Debye temperature, the Debye-Hückel theory and the Debye-Scherrer method.
In 1935, he is named the Director at the newly established Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Dahlem. A cold laboratory is also constructed, which Debye requires for his innovative research on the behaviour of matter at low temperatures. At Harnack House Debye gives lectures on the results of his research, which is also open to the public.
After the beginning of the Second World War, he is forced, as a Dutchman, to choose between adopting German citizenship or stepping down from his position. He decides to emigrate and goes to the USA where he becomes a US citizen in 1946 and professor at Cornell University in 1948. After the War, he frequently visits Germany, holds lectures and accepts a guest professorship in Göttingen in 1961.