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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 (930 )
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4.3 (780 )
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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  •  
    Jim Prince George, BC, Canada 02-26-13
    Jim Prince George, BC, Canada 02-26-13
    ratings
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    1
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    "A great listen for a science buff"
    Would you listen to The Alchemy of Air again? Why?

    Not likely to listen to the whole book again but I certainly will use parts of it to verify related bits of knowledge.


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

    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.


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

    No - the chapters were well structured to provide facets of the whole story. Stopping at the end of a chapter was just fine.


    Any additional comments?

    A marvellous effort by the author in chasing down and constructing the story of ammonia and all its effects on our modern world.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marget DELRAY BEACH, FL, United States 02-23-13
    Marget DELRAY BEACH, FL, United States 02-23-13 Member Since 2016

    Chicago Reader

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    1
    1
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    "Fantastic!"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill L. 02-21-13
    Bill L. 02-21-13

    Bill Littman

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    1
    1
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    Story
    "Good story, awful narration"

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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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    7
    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
    7
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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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    25
    5
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    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
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  • Kuba
    7/16/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Hit story, miss narration "

    What a great book, I've been meaning to read it for over a year now. I wasn't disappointed with the story, an amazing peek into history from a fresh angle that we don't really learn about in any other platform. HOWEVER! Adam Verner's voice was really a problem, I am a sound engineer myself so I do understand the studio process, the voice sounds very much robotic, as if it has auto tune running on it (!?) at the beginning of the book I was actually under the impression that it was being narrated by speach software, it took a while to realise that it was actually an actor. Having gone so far as to look at Mr. Verner's website, he is actually a great voice actor, so either the processing on the voice was extremely heavy or Adam just missed the plot on this particular performance. It really made the listening experience less pleasant than it should have been. Having said that, I would still get the book, regardless. The story is really strong enough to deal with the voice. and frankly, I'm most probably going to listen to it again another couple times to get all the details memorized.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • KäufR
    1/21/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Strange narration"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    I was convinced at the start that this was the result of automated text-to-speech software, but apparently the narrator is a real human. The intonation and cadence is most strange - I am surprised that a professional 'voice talent' can make a career sounding like a robot. The pronunciation of German names and words (quite a few in this book) were also very unlike the correct versions - a little homework goes a long way.


    Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Adam Verner?

    A human.


    You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    The story is fascinating, if a little heavy in detail. I mostly enjoyed the book and have learnt a lot from this well-researched history.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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