Peter Debye (1884-1966)
Debye's discoveries were usually of a surprising nature. He cut the knots left by others. The explanation of the phenomena he tackled was often already known. But Debye would find the appropriate mathematical methods and a model that made the solutions transparent and suitable for applications. He would make complicated things seem simple and declare 'Aber das ist doch ganz einfach' (German for 'But that really is quite simple').
Debye's career was successful. After several chairs at German universities he came to Utrecht University at the age of 28 after Einstein - after long deliberations - had declined the same chair. Debye stayed in Utrecht for two years during which time he mainly worked on theoretical issues although he was convinced mathematical physics could not exist without experimental research. When Debye left Utrecht, he went to Germany again. When the Nazis during the Second World War said he had to become a German citizen he refused and left for the United States.
Debye received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1936 for his research into the structure of molecules and for developing methods of measurement for this research. Debye's name lives on at Utrecht University in the Debye Institute and worldwide in the many discoveries named after him: the 'Debye temperature', the 'Law of Debye', the 'Debye-Scherrer Method of X-Ray Diffraction', 'Debye-Hueckel Theory of Electrolytes', 'Debye Unit of Dipole Moments' and the 'Debye Method of Molecular Weight Determination by Light Scattering'.