The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler 1st Edition, Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews
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ISBN-13: 978-0307351784
ISBN-10: 0307351785
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fixed nitrogen (which is immediately usable to plants) is essential in agriculture. Its rarity, as science writer Hager (The Demon Under the Microscope) shows, dramatically shaped the world and its politics. 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. But Hager's story is not only one of triumph, of how Haber and Bosch invented a way to turn air into bread, earning a Nobel Prize and saving millions from starvation. This is also a story of irony and tragedy. First, life-saving nitrogen is also the main ingredient in explosives, and Hager cogently summarizes the Haber-Bosch process's critical role in both world wars. In addition, Hager illustrates Haber's extreme German patriotism and desperate wish to assimilate; shattered by the rise of Hitler, he became an outcast, abandoned even by his onetime colleague Bosch. It's unfortunate that Hager ends his fine book with only a brief look at the deleterious role of nitrogen on the environment. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Named one of the Best Books of 2008 by Kirkus Reviews

"Make[s] the scientific process as suspenseful as a good whodunit."
Oregonian

"[A] smooth, well-researched book that reads like a fast-paced novel."
—News & Observer (Raleigh)

"This scientific adventure spans two world wars and every cell in your body."
Discover magazine

"Haber and Bosch are fascinating if troubled personalities, brought by Hager compellingly to life."
Washington Post Book World

“[A] gripping account of the partnership between two Nobel Prize winners whose efforts to save the world had tragic consequences we’re still sifting through today.”
Plenty magazine

“You will certainly find [Hager’s] story of [Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch] and their discover to be enlightening and entertaining….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

“Many discoveries and inventions are touted as history-changing. But as Thomas Hager admirably proves in his new book, The Alchemy of Air, Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch not only changed history, they made much of recent human history possible. As Hager solemnly notes in his introduction, ‘the discovery described in this book is keeping alive nearly half the people on earth.’ ….As with almost all technological advancement, however, there is a downside. The synthetic Haber-Bosch nitrogen, which now makes up about half the nitrogen in every human body, also fueled the weapons of the world wars and created a nitrogen-rich environment that is having a huge impact on Earth, from lush vegetative growth to dead zones ...

Product details

  • File Size: 1654 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Publication Date: September 9, 2008
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001EUGCTS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #302,620 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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