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400 Years Of Freethought
Samuel Porter Putnam
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Jon Meacham
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
Philip Pullman, Jacob Grimm
Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson
Jennifer Michael Hecht
The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America
Paul E. Johnson, Sean Wilentz

Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production

Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production - Vaclav Smil Smil identifies the nitrogen-fixing technology of the Haber-Bosch process (invented by Fritz Haber and brought up to commercial scale by Carl Bosch) as the single most important invention of the modern age. Without nitrogen fertilizers provided by the process, he says, the world population would not have been able to grow from the roughly 1.6 billion level of 1900 to the current 6 billion. Only in the postscript does Smil mention that Haber also oversaw the German Chemical Warfare Service. Ten days after Haber supervised the first German gas attack at Ypres (4-22-1915), his wife Clara shot herself through the heart with his army revolver. A scientist herself, she left behind not only Haber but their thirteen year old son, Hermann. “By the war’s end,” Smil says, the casualties of gas warfare amounted to about 1.3 million.” (227) Although it might be going a little too far to place the nitrogen-fixation process alongside the invention of chlorine gas; from a planetary perspective, the resulting population bomb has been problematic, to say the least. And there is a certain similarity in the instrumentality involved, it seems to me. I can’t help wondering what the history of the 20th and 21st centuries would have looked like, without Haber-Bosch nitrogen fixation…