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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 (891 )
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4.3 (744 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Dena Deer Trail, CO, United States 02-11-13
    Dena Deer Trail, CO, United States 02-11-13 Member Since 2012
    ratings
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    6
    3
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    "Very informative"
    Would you listen to The Alchemy of Air again? Why?

    I would listen again. This is a piece of history that I did not know about. I love chemistry and this history of modern chemistry played right into my interests.


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

    Learning that modern food production would be impossible without this process.


    What does Adam Verner bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    When I read my voice is the narrator in my head. Hearing this read to me was like listening to a favorite professor.


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

    I think I could have listened in one sitting. It was very gripping.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mayet8 Randwick, Australia 02-04-13
    mayet8 Randwick, Australia 02-04-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "interesting and informative"
    What did you love best about The Alchemy of Air?

    the whole story, amazing contribution talents of human kind and to the very low-down scale perpetrated by its evil use.


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

    when the rise of nazi Hitler elimenating every Jews.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    the rise and fall in revolution


    Any additional comments?

    marvelous and greiffing

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G. Sanders 01-25-13
    G. Sanders 01-25-13 Member Since 2009

    Avid reader!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Amazing. An incredible important book"
    Where does The Alchemy of Air rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Excellent historical, and informational book. On the top of my list.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The ramifications of the inventions. Both destruction in the form of weapons, and live giving in the form of fertilizer.


    Which character – as performed by Adam Verner – was your favorite?

    Several


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

    No. But it is very interesting


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kappavpi 01-24-13
    Kappavpi 01-24-13 Listener Since 2004
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    "History Written Like A Novel"

    This is the fascinating story of two German scientists whose revolutionary inventions gave the world an inexhaustible supply of both fertilizer and explosives -- ultimately created from air. If you have any interest in history you will enjoy this, not only because it is about some extremely important turning points, but also because it is true factual history written like a novel, which makes it even more palatable. The reading is pretty good as well.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph 01-23-13
    Joseph 01-23-13 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Science, History, Food"

    This was a fun book. Well researched, well written and well delivered. It includes a little bit of my three favorite subjects...science, history & food. Well, kind of food, you can't have food without fixed nitrogen. I first became interested in fixed nitrogen & Haber's invention after reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. Michael Pollan referred to it briefly, and I was surprised that I did not know much about an invention that changed the world in so many ways.
    This book provides a history of the men involved with fixed nitrogen, the company's that they worked for that brought it to market, how they did it and the consequences of their creation.
    Again, this is a fun, interesting read. You do not need a science or history background to enjoy this book. If you are just looking for a book on a different subject than you usually listen to, and you want to learn something new, check this out. I think you will enjoy it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul New Zealand 01-19-13
    Paul New Zealand 01-19-13
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    "Glad I got this book"

    Not an everyday subject but one that is important to everyone, this book explained a lot and helped answer a lot of questions I had about the rise of Hitler and the prosperity of a lot of us throughout the 20th Century.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeanne M. Young cartersville, ga United States 01-19-13
    Jeanne M. Young cartersville, ga United States 01-19-13 Member Since 2012

    jokestrap

    ratings
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    23
    5
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    Performance
    Story
    "What you don't know about chemistry can hurt you."
    What made the experience of listening to The Alchemy of Air the most enjoyable?

    This story was fascinating. The author made a complex story interesting.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Well, I didn't know about synthetic gasoline that the Nazi's used! Can we bring that back?


    Have you listened to any of Adam Verner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, but his deliberate style was somewhat dull.


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

    No, it was better to digest a little at a time. Full of wonderful information.


    Any additional comments?

    Just wonderful.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PAUL surprise, az, United States 01-02-13
    PAUL surprise, az, United States 01-02-13 Member Since 2011

    my ipod and audible make the daily 10 mile walks a "breeze"....

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "you get what you pay for"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    usually i can find something of value in every book i "listen" to as i do my daily "long" walks...but this is probably the most boring book i have ever listened too...not only was it uninteresting....it made the daily walks even "longer"........


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    unknown


    Would you be willing to try another one of Adam Verner’s performances?

    NO...NO...NO...a thousand times NO!!!!!!!!


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    wasted time listening


    Any additional comments?

    i think i've said enough

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JJ 12-04-12
    JJ 12-04-12
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    "Fascinating piece of surpringlittle known history."
    If you could sum up The Alchemy of Air in three words, what would they be?

    Fascinating, engaging, informative.


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

    The history of the Nitrate Wars and the parts played by Chile, Peru and the foreign powers was all new to me.


    Any additional comments?

    If you are interested in technology and/or the resources debate this is an important insight into one of the most critical inventions in human history. It has everything: strong personalities, secrets, technical innovation, politics, racial prejudice, war, famine, Nazis - the lot. But it is all fact, not fiction, and it describes events that significantly shape the world we currently live in.

    I learned about the Haber-Bosch process in school Chemistry but had no idea how absolutely essential it was to shaping the last 120 years.

    Adam Verner has an excellent voice, intonation, and pace and is more pleasant than some other American narrators for those who speak a different form of English. :-)

    Thoroughly recommended.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pam 10-23-12
    Pam 10-23-12
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    "Interesting history"
    Would you listen to The Alchemy of Air again? Why?

    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.


    Have you listened to any of Adam Verner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    N/A


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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