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The Alchemy of Air Audiobook
The Alchemy of Air
Written by: 
Thomas Hager
Narrated by: 
Adam Verner
The Alchemy of Air Audiobook

The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler

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Publisher's Summary

A sweeping history of tragic genius, cutting-edge science, and the discovery that changed billions of lives - including your own.

At the dawn of the 20th century, humanity was facing global disaster. Mass starvation, long predicted for the fast-growing population, was about to become a reality. A call went out to the world's scientists to find a solution. This is the story of the two enormously gifted, fatally flawed men who found it: the brilliant, self-important Fritz Haber and the reclusive, alcoholic Carl Bosch.

Together they discovered a way to make bread out of air, built city-sized factories, controlled world markets, and saved millions of lives. Their invention continues to feed us today; without it, more than two billion people would starve.

But their epochal triumph came at a price we are still paying. The Haber-Bosch process was also used to make the gunpowder and high explosives that killed millions during the two world wars. Both men were vilified during their lives; both, disillusioned and disgraced, died tragically. Today we face the other unintended consequences of their discovery - massive nitrogen pollution and a growing pandemic of obesity.

The Alchemy of Air is the extraordinary, previously untold story of two master scientists who saved the world only to lose everything and of the unforseen results of a discovery that continue to shape our lives in the most fundamental and dramatic of ways.

©2008 Thomas Hager (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"This scientific adventure spans two world wars and every cell in your body." (Discover magazine)

“I know of few other books that provide the general reader with a better portrait of chemistry as the most useful of sciences, and I intend to recommend it to scientists and non-scientists alike.” (The Journal of Chemical Education)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (825 )
5 star
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1 star
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Overall
4.5 (680 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.3 (681 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Milton891 11-19-15
    Milton891 11-19-15 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The connections made from the past to the present and into the future - thank you"

    A very good history lesson that sheds light on the present and the future. Good job!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Randy 10-24-15
    Randy 10-24-15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    Story
    "history is about to repeat-------
    again"

    An uncomfortable feeling grew as I listened through almost nonstop , at some point I realized that feeling was associated with my being in an out of control car waiting to see if I survived the stop. As I finished I became aware that the out of control car feeling wasn't about the stop, it was the realization we're starting it again

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cody 07-28-15
    Cody 07-28-15 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Slow to start but worth the wait"

    At first I wasn't pulled in but after the 3rd chapter I couldn't put it down. I learned more then I thought I would from this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim 06-12-15
    Jim 06-12-15
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    Story
    "Great narrative. Bogged down at beginning and end"

    This is a good book for anyone interested in the history of science or of the firms BASF and IG Farbin. It tells the story of the struggle to synthesize nitrogen for fertilizer (and explosives) and the story of two men (Haber - the pure scientist who figured out how to do it - and Bosch - the scientist/engineer/businessman who figured out how to optimize that process and make it cost effective). The story incorporates mini-stories of early application and sources of fertilizer (mostly in Peru and Chile), how BASF transformed from a cloth dye company to the largest chemical company in the world (by sales), poison gas development in WWI, how IG Farbin (the German chemical conglomerate) was formed, and the tangential story of synthetic gasoline that powered a lot of the Third Reich.
    The Alchemy of Air's story easily flows across industries, people and history. I think this is one of those things that looks easiest to do when it is done very well - but weaving this kind of tale isn't very easy, so Thomas Hagan does a great job.
    I got bogged down in the beginning and put this audio book down for months because it just didn't grab me. When I picked up the story, it took off. The problem was probably me and not the book, but was my experience nevertheless. Similarly, I started getting bored over the last 30-45 minutes as the story(ies) wound down.
    Overall, a great book - just hold on if things feel a little slow, it will pick up again and you will be happy with the overall experience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas 05-07-15
    Thomas 05-07-15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
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    Story
    "There are few that put together the synergy of sci"
    What made the experience of listening to The Alchemy of Air the most enjoyable?

    There are few that put together the synergy of science, commerce, and their places in history so well as Thomas Hager. I bought Demon Under the Microscope at a sale price, and consider one of the best reads in decades. Alchemy of Air is equally absorbing.

    I have taught physics and engineering at university for years, and I try and make history and commerce part of the background in my courses. Personalities and economic pressures do shape the course of technology and as Mr. Hager points out, not always for the better. I hope Mr. Hager continues these pursuits, and might consider exploring the threads of more physics, chemistry, and engineering.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerry M. Boland Jr. 03-06-15 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    19
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "loved this book and story"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    yes; important story that was told very well


    What did you like best about this story?

    the importance to human development


    What about Adam Verner’s performance did you like?

    clear


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    good from beginning to end


    Any additional comments?

    important to know

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Cramer IL United States 02-06-15
    L. Cramer IL United States 02-06-15

    Cramer

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "What a Fortunate Thing to Stumble Upon"
    Would you listen to The Alchemy of Air again? Why?

    Yes yes yes, I could listen and re-listen to these chapters over and over again and still feel like I was gaining something new from it.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Alchemy of Air?

    I felt so fortunate that I stumbled upon this book. I love science reading, and I love the fact that the author brought back to life a topic most people would have otherwise forgotten or not cared about. I didn't realize the impact of the discovery of nitrogen fixation had on the entire world. I abhor history reading, but this was a digestible form of reading for me. The author really gave character to his - well, characters. My favorite part was when Crooks gave a speech to convince the scientific community that we needed to work on increasing food production, that then went on to discovering nitrogen fixation, that then went on to fuel war, innovation, technology, and increased food production. Wow!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T. Troxel 07-25-14
    T. Troxel 07-25-14

    Powder Head

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    31
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great story of science, engineering and history"
    Would you listen to The Alchemy of Air again? Why?

    I'll probably listen again - It's a great story with fascinating characters and interesting science.


    What other book might you compare The Alchemy of Air to and why?

    the first human, 4% universe, the black hole war


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff EDWARDS, IL, United States 07-19-14
    Jeff EDWARDS, IL, United States 07-19-14 Member Since 2012

    Loyal Amazon FanBoy

    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
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    7
    3
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    4
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    "One of the best books I've ever listened to!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history, engineering, collaborative teams or just good story telling.


    What other book might you compare The Alchemy of Air to and why?

    books on the Manhattan project because it is a story of brilliant individuals responding to enormous challenges and ethical dilemmas.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The use of gas as a weapon. The fog of war has a way of pulling scientists in. Before they realize it, they become Dr Evil.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Couldn't press pause.


    Any additional comments?

    Don't miss it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roberta 07-07-14
    Roberta 07-07-14 Member Since 2014

    Vassar graduate, living in Mexico and retired.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    35
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    136
    28
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    "worthwhile, but a little too long"

    Much of the biographical information about the scientists is drawn out. If you can get through the first 80 percent of the book, the last part is profoundly interesting. The narrator neither adds nor detracts from the story. There is no comic relief.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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