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Nitrogen, pillar of life

Science and war

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Fritz Haber Photos

All photos courtesy of the Archive for the History of the Max Planck Society, Berlin-Dahlem (Germany) Fritz Haber as a young child

This is the earliest available image of Fritz Haber. It's a portrait of a motherless child.  His mother Paula died a few days after he was born.  His father Siegfried remarried when Fritz was seven years old.

Fritz Haber upon graduation from universityIn 1891, at the age of 22, Fritz Haber graduated from Berlin's university.  He  was an adequate yet undistinguished student, and after graduation he had difficulty for a time gaining a foothold in the academic world. 

Photo of Clara ImmerwahrClara Immerwahr, who married Fritz Haber in 1900, is a fascinating historical figure in her own right.  Like Haber, she grew up within the Jewish community of Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland).  She became the first woman to obtain a doctoral degree in chemistry from Breslau's university.  When she married Haber and joined him in Karlsruhe, where he'd obtained an teaching job, she was forced by circumstances to abandon her scientific passions. 

Fritz Haber and Albert EinsteinFritz Haber's successful synthesis of ammonia in 1909, capturing nitrogen from the air, brought him fame and wealth.  In 1911, he moved to Berlin to head the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry.  In Berlin, he came friends with Albert Einstein. 

Fritz Haber with chemical weapons in World War iWhen war broke out, Fritz Haber became a central figure in Germany's war effort. He was the driving force behind Germany's use of poison gases on the battlefield.  Here,  we see him in uniform, pointing toward an array of artillery shells.

Fritz Haber marries Charlotte NathanHaber's wife Clara had long been unhappy in her marriage.  In 1915, just a few days after Haber orchestrated Germany's first poison gas attack, she killed herself with her husband's military handgun. In 1917, Fritz Haber married Charlotte Nathan, the business manager of a social club where he was a member. This photograph shows Haber and Nathan, together with Haber's son Hermann (left), immediately after the marriage ceremony.

Fritz Haber in 1928Fritz Haber in 1928, on the occasion of his 60th birthday.