80th Anniversary of Fritz Haber's Death

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  • Author: ChemViews
  • Published Date: 29 January 2014
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
thumbnail image: 80th Anniversary of Fritz Haber's Death

Fritz Haber was born December 9, 1868 in Breslau, Germany (now Poland), to a wealthy Jewish family. He is known for proposing, together with Max Born, the Born–Haber cycle and for developing the Haber-Bosch process with Carl Bosch. It was for the latter work, or more specifically "for the synthesis of ammonia from its elements", that he received the 1918 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.


In 1886 he went to the University of Heidelberg, Germany, where he studied chemistry under Robert Bunsen. After further studies at the University of Berlin and the Technical School at Charlottenburg, both Germany, he worked at his father’s chemical business. He then went to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, Switzerland, to work for Georg Lunge and then to Jena, Germany, to work with Ludwig Knorr. In 1894, he moved to the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, and it was his research here that led to the development of a catalytic method for the synthesis of ammonia from hydrogen and nitrogen at high temperature and pressure, namely the Haber-Bosch process.


In 1901, he married Clara Immerwahr, a fellow chemist who was the first woman to gain a Ph.D. from the University of Breslau. He became the first director of  the newly founded Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry, in 1911. The institute was renamed The Fritz Haber Institute (FHI), in his honor, in 1952.

During the First World War, Haber was involved in the development of poison gas, which earned him a lot of criticism from fellow scientists. He died 29 January, 1934, in Basel, Switzerland, on his way to take up an academic post in Rehovot, Mandatory Palestine (now Israel).


Fritz Haber is the answer to Guess the Chemist (25).


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