Fritz Haber

haber1Here is a man that has touched each of us. If you eat you have him to thank (and this is not an over statement).

From the Nobel Website.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1918 was awarded to Fritz Haber “for the synthesis of ammonia from its elements”.

Fritz Haber received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1919. During the selection process in 1918, the Nobel Committee for Chemistry decided that none of the year’s nominations met the criteria as outlined in the will of Alfred Nobel. According to the Nobel Foundation’s statutes, the Nobel Prize can in such a case be reserved until the following year, and this statute was then applied. Fritz Haber therefore received his Nobel Prize for 1918 one year later, in 1919.

Here is a man that was able to help feed the world with improved fertilizers. Yet this brilliant man also brought the world chemical weapons in The Great War.  He personally oversaw the first use of chlorine in Ypres in the west and on the Eastern Front.

Add to this he was also a secular Jew that was supported in his research by Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany.

A man driven by his love of science I am troubled, as I do not know what box to place him in. Yes he is a genius and a patriot (for Germany). A war criminal (for the Allies) possibly. He is definitely driven, but a good man, I am not sure.

His family life was shaky at best with losing his pacifist wife to suicide after his introduction of chemical weapons. One son committed suicide in the United States in 1946 after living with the shame of being his son.

Haber’s scientific research was than used by the Nazi’s in their gas chambers.

He died on the way to what is now Israel in 1934. I wonder how much of Israel’s history would have changed if he lived.

There are many layers to him and while I remain unsure, I will continue to delve into his life. I am not even sure if he deserved the Nobel Prize.

A Bio that I find more comprehensive than the one found on Wikipedia or the Nobel sites.

A Great Audio Story by RADIOLAB

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