The Alchemy of Air is a fasinating story. From the need to feed the increasing population of the world, to chemical warfare... This is an amazing history that has all the elements of a great story. And best of all, it is a true story told extreemly well. If you have an introductory knowledge of chemistry, the information on nitrogen fixation will be in your grasp of understanding. The history has a frame of reference that is easy to follow through the 20th century. The narration is smooth and relaxed and well suited to the story that it just carries you along from start to finish.
Middlemarch, Middlesex, Middlebrow
You'll experience a strong sense of deja entendu if you've ever listened to "Iron Mike" read the forecast on NOAA VHF weather radio.
"Soul-der" for solder is bad, but wait till you hear him try "Hoechst", and Admiral Spee's name doesn't rhyme with "pee". I could go on.
Great story, though, and the writing is simple enough to absorb in challenging traffic or while making love (just kidding).
Around the turn of the 19th century, scientists began worrying that mass starvation was going to become a global catastrophe because of the growing population in relation to the amount of arable land to grow crops. This conundrum was eventually solved by a pair of German scientists, Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch who went on to become Nobel Prize recipients for their work.
The corporate strategy involved in patenting the technology and competing against natural fertilizers was eye-opening. Of course throw in two World Wars and the story really gets interesting. The story is amazing, the science is not difficult to follow and the narration is great. If you like to read about science, World War II, or just want to know more about what is arguably the most important technological achievement by man, get this book!
The story of Fritz Haber and his relationship with his family Judaism and how that clashed with his science in support of the German war machine.
Eclecticismo, Ritmo, Sprezzatura
A great tale, mixing engineering, history and drama. You really get an insight into the characters' personalities and motivations. Great description of the places and the general feeling of the time within the story. It kept me hooked!
Hager traces the development of nitrogen as an industrial product first from the mines of Chile and Peru in the early 19th century through all the way through the Third Reich and tells the tales of the people involved all the way. The book is lively and worth hearing/reading as a way of improving one's general knowledge of history and the world we live in.
I'm not sure about the subtitle of the book. I think the story deals with many characters over the course of centuries. Although the story comes to a natural conclusion with the demise of the Third Reich, the Saltpeter Wars and WWI are probably more important to the whole book. Alas, maybe it's just that anything claiming to be about Hitler's rise to power is guaranteed to sell more copies.
The reader makes a surprising number of mistakes with people's names (e.g. is it Le, La or Les Rossignole?) and place names (e.g. Auschwitz, not Aus-witch), not to mention with some ordinary words (e.g. "soldering.") He does a good job of reading generally. I liked listening to him. But mispronouncing things that are easy to look up is unfortunate.
A very interesting and intertwined historically relevant story. Well written and well read by the narrator. A lot more substance than expected. Insights into chemistry, history, politics and sociology all in one book. Well worth the time to read or listen too!
Smooth, clear and crisp presentation of an often technical topic. Never boring.
The depth of the interconnections in this book are very enlightening. Did Haber saved the world from the Malthusian dilemma... Or did he only postpone the inevitable?
Haven't read the print version.
Karl Bosch. Tireless dedication to the process, and for somewhat defying the Nazism.
Not likely to listen to the whole book again but I certainly will use parts of it to verify related bits of knowledge.
The use of pigeon poop as quality fertilizer - we had recently been on a guided walk in Turkey and the farmers always had coops to encourage pigeons to nest, The book provided affirmation that historical practices were rooted in practical results.
No - the chapters were well structured to provide facets of the whole story. Stopping at the end of a chapter was just fine.
A marvellous effort by the author in chasing down and constructing the story of ammonia and all its effects on our modern world.
The author builds a narrative out of the disparate events leading to discovery of the Haber Bosch process. Much of the best and worst of the modern world is owed to this discovery. Hager's prose are clear and the story is well structured and deeply compelling.
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in science or history.
The kernel of the story was very interesting but it had a tendency to wander a bit. The narrator not only mispronounced words and names but also had a grating style. Often, when I should have been concentrating on the book I was thinking instead of how much I disliked the narration.