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.
"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)
Yes, I didn't realise the significance of this invention until I listened to the book. I would listen again to pick up on some of the information I missed the first time.
It was fasinating to follow the tangents that developed through the story
Little tidbits like the acronym SHIT store high in transit
Clear concise read that made you feel like you were reading not listening
This is the first reveiw I have made. This book compelled me to reveiw as it deserves every accolade.
Probably one of the best as far as the storyline goes. Really very interesting
I thought it was fascinating to read how Haber developed poison gas for use by the Germans in World War I. Haber then developed a system for deploying/distributing the gas, and supervised the release of the gas at the front lines. Haber's wife committed suicide, using his service revolver, soon after the chemical warfare was initiated.
There are parts of the book that sound like an "Introduction to Chemistry" textbook. An understanding of the chemistry involved helped tell the story. Although engrossing, this was not a book that I personally would have enjoyed in "one sitting".
This was an all-round fascinating biography of a man whose discoveries/inventions have had both positive and negative impact of the lives of millions (if not billions) of people. Highly Recommended!
Very interesting story. I never eralized the importance of nitrogen to agriculture or to munitions.
No. Naration is stodgy, odd and distracting.
This is a well written book about a super interesting story of something that keeps halve the world population alive (artificial fertilizer) and you have probably never heard off. To me this was a great eye opener about why battles were fought over an island of bird poop on the coast of south america.
Also a great personal story about the scientists that sacrificed their lives to develop true technologies while holding false believes in the nation state. Trying to be more german than the germans, finally nevertheless dissed as a jew by those who claimed to represent the imaginary nation state. Both Haber and Bosch developed world changing technology but died disillusioned, the product of their lives being plundered and exploited by politicians and war mongers.
This is an account of two German men (Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch) responsible for figuring out how to fix nitrogen on a large scale, and about their experiences during World Wars I and II. This was a little too sensationalized for my liking at times, and definitely too repetitive, and I thought the way Hager chose to end it was kind of strange, but it's still a very interesting story. Good narration as well.
Fantastic history of the science & politics revolving around fixed nitrogen. Sound boring? You might be surprised at how this has effected all our lives, in peace and war.
Yes. This very interesting history portrays the heartbreak of a genius who did everything humanly possible to be accepted but to no avail.
This story is about Fritz Haber, a nobel prize winner and also some think a war criminal.
He did not envolve himself in the story, it went smoothly and the reader just did his job and that is to read.
The man who has saved the lives of 4 billion people
This critical biography is a must for any who have a good interest in history.
Sufficient food for all of us can not be grown using naturally occuring fertilizers and/or nitrates. Enter two geniuses who successfully thunk up a process for creating unlimited nitrates from the unlimited nitrogen in the air. WahLah! Today we all eat well (except for those in a society where corruption is the rule).
These two German geniuses did it to make money, a lot of money (feeding the masses was the by-product, not their motivation). They succeeded in mastering the technology and exporting the technology to the globe inspite of despot governments in Germany (Think WWI and WWII and before).
The importance of this miracle can not be overstated. One interesting application was that President Nixon's initial visit to China was followed by China importing this technology to feed its masses.
Any student of modern European history should consider this book a must!
Cecil R. Williams
The book is excellent. It shows how technology transcends Nazism, Marxism, Democracy and Racism.
It is very good lesion in history and economics. It brings to life some extremely interesting and important people
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