Petrus (Peter) Josephus Wilhelmus Debye
Born: 24 March 1884, Maastricht, the Netherlands
Died: 2 November 1966, Ithaca, NY, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Berlin University, Berlin, Germany , Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut (now Max-Planck-Institut) für Physik, Berlin, Germany
Prize motivation: "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."
Prize share: 1/1
One of chemistry's most important missions is to discern what molecules look like - how molecules are arranged in a structure. A method Peter Debye developed in 1912 to determine how electrical charges are distributed in a molecule became important in the mapping of molecular structures. At the same time, X-ray radiation was becoming an important tool for mapping crystalline structures, but Peter Debye also developed methods for using both X-rays and electron beams to map molecular structures in gases, for example.