Debye, Peter (Joseph William) (b. Petrus Josephus Wilhelmus Debje)(1884–1966) physicist, chemist; born in Maastricht, Holland. He held a series of teaching posts at Swiss, Dutch, and German universities while he pursued his research in physical chemistry. In 1912–13 he introduced the concept of the molecular electric dipole moment, which led to new understandings of ionization and molecular structure. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry (1936). He emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1940 and headed the chemistry department at Cornell University (1940–50), where he concentrated on research in the light-scattering process.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.