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

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Synopsis

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 twentieth 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 continues to shape our lives in the most fundamental and dramatic of ways.
 

About Thomas Hager

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A veteran science and medical writer, THOMAS HAGER is the author of The Demon Under the Microscope; Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling; and more than a hundred news and feature articles in Reader's Digest, Journal of the American Medical Association, and many other publications.
 
Published August 26, 2008 by Broadway Books. 338 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Science & Math, Travel. Non-fiction

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Haber, a Jew, developed the chlorine gas used in World War I, sought a way to extract gold from the oceans to pay off German war reparations and conducted research that led to the development of the Zyklon B gas used in Nazi death camps.

Sep 01 2008 | Read Full Review of The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish ...

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But by 1905, as Hager details, German chemist Fritz Haber discovered a process for transforming abundant air-borne nitrogen into ammonia, and Carl Bosch’s ingenious engineering scaled Haber’s benchtop chemistry into industrial processes to make fertilizer.

Jun 23 2008 | Read Full Review of The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish ...

Bookmarks Magazine

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 unforsee...

Dec 14 2008 | Read Full Review of The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish ...

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