Petrus (Peter) Josephus Wilhelmus Debye
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1936
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.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.