Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare

Daniel Charles, Author . Ecco $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-056272-4

Fritz Haber (1868–1934), winner of the 1918 Nobel Prize for chemistry, was, in Charles's eyes, a "modern Faust": "willing to serve any master who could further his passion for knowledge and progress." Having discovered how to manufacture nitrogen-based fertilizer, which allowed the increase of crop production needed to feed an exploding human population, he also developed the first poison gas, used infamously in WWI at Ypres on April 22, 1915. It's this harrowing moral thicket that most fascinates Charles (Lords of the Harvest ) in this overly sympathetic biography of the first "scientist-warrior." Haber was passionately committed to German nationalism (Jewish by birth, he converted to Christianity in order to assimilate), and he devoted his skills to Germany's cause in WWI. Approximately a week after Ypres Haber's wife, a scientist believed to have opposed the use of poison gas, committed suicide. Charles, a former NPR correspondent, strays from objectivity, frequently offering his own judgments and opinions, and he sees Haber's life as a cautionary tale: "[S]ometimes," he concludes, "it is the duty of an honest scientist" to refuse to put science in the service of national military goals."B&w photos. Agent, Katinka Matson . (Aug. 2)

Reviewed on: 05/16/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-06-157617-1
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 336 pages - 978-0-06-157619-5
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