Fritz Haber, a German chemist, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his work on the production of ammonia from its constituent elements. His father ran a successful chemical company, and he was born into a well-established Jewish family in Breslau. Fritz Haber wanted to join his father’s company after getting his PhD from Friedrich Wilhelm University, but subsequently changed his mind and enrolled at University of Jenna. He became a Lutheran while working as an independent assistant in Jena. Later, he moved to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry in Berlin-Dahlem, first to the University of Karlsruhe and then to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry in Berlin-Dahlem. He worked on a variety of projects at Karlsruhe and made significant contributions to the science of chemistry. One of his most important discoveries was the synthesizing of ammonia for use in the fertilizer and explosive industries. It won him not only notoriety, but also the Nobel Prize in 1918. His discovery of chemical weapons during World War I, on the other hand, made him equally reviled. He defended his actions, though, by stating that death was death, regardless of how it occurred. He also stated that scientists belonged to the world during peacetime, but exclusively to their own country during wartime.
Childhood and Adolescence
Fritz Haber was born in Wroclaw, then known as Breslau, in Western Poland, on December 9, 1868, into one of the region’s oldest Jewish families. Siegfried Haber, his father, was a well-known dye pigments, paints, and pharmaceuticals trader.
Fritz’s mother, Paula Haber, died three weeks after he was born. Hedwig Hamburger was his father’s second wife. Fritz had three half sisters from this marriage: Else, Helene, and Frieda. Despite his poor relationship with his father, he had a close relationship with his stepmother and sisters.
Fritz began his schooling at Johanneum School, a primary school where kids of all faiths and sects were welcome. He entered in St. Elizabeth classical school at the age of eleven and graduated in 1886. He then went on to study chemistry at Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin (now known as Humboldt University of Berlin).
In 1887, he moved to Heidelberg to study under Robert Bunsen at the University of Heidelberg. He returned to Berlin to study at Technical College of Charlottenburg (now Technical University of Berlin) for one semester before graduating in 1889.
He enlisted in the Sixth Field Artillery Regiment for a year of mandatory duty in 1889. After that, he returned to Charlottenburg Technical College to work on his doctoral thesis under Carl Liebermann. He chose to focus on Piperonal, an organic chemical found in aroma and flavors, on Liebermann’s advice.
Because Charlottenburg did not yet have the authority to award PhDs, he eventually submitted his paper to Friedrich Wilhelm University, where he got his degree in May 1891. In the same year, he published ‘Über einige Derivate des Piperonals’ (About a Few Piperonal Derivatives).
He then worked in a variety of chemical units, where he recognized he needed to learn more about technical procedures. As a result, he enrolled in Polytechnic College in Zürich (now Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in 1892, where he studied for one semester with Georg Lunge.
Career of Fritz Haber
Haber began his academic career at the University of Jena in 1892 as an independent assistant to Ludwig Knorr. Knorr was intrigued by Haber’s dye knowledge, and he recommended him to Hans Bunte at the University of Karlsruhe in 1894.
Haber began working on the thermal breakdown of hydrocarbons on Bunte’s recommendations. His findings were submitted as his Habilitation thesis. He was then promoted to Privatdozent and began teaching in addition to his research.
He traveled around Europe in 1896, investigating improvements in dye technology. The next year, he took a similar tour, but this time he focused on the advancement of electrochemistry, particularly the reduction of nitrobenzene.
He was appointed Extraordinarius and Associate Professor at the University of Karlsruhe in 1898, and he continued to work on several projects after that.
He began electrochemical preparation of a number of key organic compounds in 1904. These papers are still regarded as seminal in the subject of electrochemistry.
He was named Professor of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry, as well as Director of the Institute, in 1906. Regardless, he continued to work on a range of projects.
Haber conducted a thorough investigation of the hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell in 1907. Following that, in 1909, he began pioneering work on the glass electrode. The most important of his inventions is the ‘Haber Process,’ which led to the laboratory-scale synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen gas in 1908.
Haber was named Director of Berlin-Kaiser Dahlem’s Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry in 1911. He was a co-signer of the “Manifesto of the Ninety-Three,” which vowed unequivocal support to the German war effort when World War I broke out in 1914.
Haber was quickly promoted to the Ministry of War’s Chemistry Section Head. His mission was to create lethal gases that could be used in trench combat. He not only directed the team that created these gases, but he also produced a mask to keep the users safe.
He was so enthusiastic about this creation that he personally oversaw the release of lethal chlorine gas in April 1915. He continued to work for the German Army in its covert chemical weaponry program after the war, from 1919 to 1923.
He tried to extract gold from seawater in the 1920s, but the proportion was too little to make the operation commercially viable. Soon after, Nazism rose to prominence, and by 1931, Haber was becoming increasingly concerned about the situation.
Despite the fact that he was born a Jew, he had long ago converted to Christianity. In addition, his dedication to his country during World War I was unrivaled. All of this led him to believe that he would be recognized as a patriotic
German; nevertheless, this was not the case.
Following that, he was ordered to fire all Jews as the Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry. Haber postponed the order’s execution, allowing the scientists to relocate elsewhere. Finally, on April 30, 1933, he submitted his own resignation, citing ethical concerns.
Major Projects of Fritz Haber
Despite his work in a variety of domains, Haber is best recognized for his work on ammonia synthesis utilizing atmospheric nitrogen and hydrogen gases. It was known as the ‘Haber-Bosch Process,’ and it allowed for the industrial manufacturing of fertilizers, which greatly increased farm production.
Haber is also recognized for the ‘Born Haber Cycle’, in addition to the ‘Haber-Bosch Process.’ Haber and Max Born’s cycle is mostly used to calculate the lattice energies of an ionic solid.
Achievements & Awards
The Bunsen Society of Berlin awarded Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch the Bunsen Medal in 1918.
Haber received the 1918 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the synthesis of ammonia from its elements” in 1919.
The Austrian Industry Association (sterreichischer Gewerbeverein) gave him the Wilhelm Exner Medal for the same invention in 1929.
The Royal Society awarded him the Rumford Medal in 1932 for “exceptional importance of his work in physical chemistry, particularly in the application of thermodynamics to chemical reactions.”
Personal History and Legacy
Haber married Clara Immerwahr, a German chemist and the first woman to receive a PhD in chemistry, on August 3, 1901. She never worked separately, instead silently contributing to Haber’s job without expecting anything in return, which made her quite sad. Hermann was the couple’s only child.
Clara committed suicide on May 2, 1915, ostensibly in protest of her husband’s involvement in chemical warfare.
Haber married Charlotte Nathan on October 25, 1917. Eva-Charlotte and Ludwig-Fritz were the couple’s two children. They divorced on December 6, 1927, after a long and tumultuous marriage.
On April 30, 1933, Haber resigned from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. He then traveled around Europe, stopping in France, Spain, and Switzerland for short periods of time. Finally, he was invited to work in Cambridge, England, for a few months. His condition had deteriorated to the point where he had suffered a stroke.
In 1934, he was offered the position of Director of the Sieff Research Institute in Rehovot, Palestine (now the Weizmann Institute). At the beginning of 1934, he departed for the Middle East, but died on the route on January 29, 1934.
In 1953, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry, where he had previously worked, was renamed Fritz Haber Institute.
Fritz Haber Net Worth
Fritz is one of the wealthiest chemists and one of the most well-known chemists. Fritz Haber’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.