Monday, February 23, 2015

This week's C&EN

Lots of interesting tidbits:


  1. I wonder why poor Fritz Haber gets all the bad publicity - it makes a nice morality story (Haber was Jewish and so Nazis were mean to him, and Habers beautiful wife who was a PhD chemist herself committed suicide in 1915 with his service revolver, supposedly after argument about chemical warfare) and Germans did not win the war.

    Much less known fact is that the real father of chemical warfare is one Victor Grignard, who suggested use of ethyl bromoacetate and alpha brominated xylenes as tear gases in WWI trench warfare that started the whole thing Later during the war Grignard developed a practical production of phosgene gas...

    1. Consider reading a Fritz Haber biography (Daniel Charles and Dietrich Stoltzenberg both wrote excellent ones). Haber justifiably gets all the bad publicity because he was by far the biggest lobbyist for chemical weapons in that era; he spearheaded the introduction of all the three *deadly* poisons used primarily in WW1, by both sides. And he continued doing secret chemical weapons research long after WW1, in direct contravention to Germany's terms of surrender. Side note: He was of Jewish descent, but converted to Lutheranism as a young man, spending a greater part of his life--40 years--as a Christian. Even his daughter didn't know they were Jewish when the Third Reich reared its ugly head. Both his wives converted. These facts in no way excuse the Nazi treatment of him, but your focus on his Jewishness is probably something he'd not have gone for. He was an incredibly secular man.

  2. I highly recommend reading "Fritz Haber: Chemist, Nobel Laureate, German, Jew: A Biography" by Dietrich Stoltzenberg. Excellent work