Dr. Clara Immerwahr was a German chemist who took a lone but courageous stand against her nation and her husband, the famed chemist Fritz Haber. She was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from a German university, the University of Breslau, now the University of Wrocław, Poland.
Immerwahr was born in 1870 and received her early education from private tutors. Encouraged by her father, who had also studied chemistry, she attended lectures at the University of Breslau and passed the predoctoral qualifying exam in 1898. She gained her Ph.D. under the supervision of Professor Richard Abegg, working on the solubility of metal salts. Shortly after, she met Fritz Haber and married him. She assisted him with his research and translated several of his works into English, putting her own research on hold.
‘After the outbreak of World War I, Haber began working for the German military leading that nation’s chemical warfare program. Immerwahr was strongly opposed to his work, condemning it as “perversion of the ideals of science”. On May 2nd 1915, Immerwahr shot herself with Haber’s pistol in what many see as her final act of protest against her husband’s work with chemical weapons and Germany’s use of them.
To honor this remarkable woman, the City of Wrocław and the University of Wroclaw Alumni Association have dedicated a plaque to Clara Immerwahr. The plaque will be placed on the main building of the University and will be unveiled on December 19, three days before anniversary of Clara’s Ph.D.
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