(1907-) German-born British physicist who contributed to the early theory of the neutron–proton system. He helped to develop the atomic bomb 1940–46.
Peierls was born in Berlin and studied at universities in Germany and Switzerland under leading atomic physicists. From 1933 he worked in the UK, and was professor at Birmingham 1937–63 and at Oxford 1963–74.
In 1940, at Birmingham, Austrian physicist Otto Frisch and Peierls made an estimate of the energy released in a nuclear chain reaction, which indicated that a fission bomb would make a weapon of terrifying power. They drew the attention of the British government to this in 1940, and Peierls was placed in charge of a small group concerned with evaluating the chain reaction and its efficiency. In 1943, when Britain decided not to continue its work on nuclear energy, Peierls moved to the US to help in the work of the Manhattan Project, first in New York and then at Los Alamos.