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German chemist Fritz Haber, b. Dec. 9, 1868, d. Jan. 29, 1934, won the 1918 Nobel Prize for chemistry for his discovery of a method for synthesizing ammonia by combining atmospheric hydrogen and nitrogen under high pressures. Using this method, Germany was able to keep making explosives during World War I after the Allied blockade had cut access
to Chilean nitrate deposits. Haber's work further opened the way for the manufacture of synthetic fertilizers as well, one of his long-term interests.
During the war Haber also played a major role in developing poison gases for the Central Powers. The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry, under his direction from its foundation in 1911
(see physics, history of), became a leading research center, but because he was Jewish he was forced to leave both the institute and Germany when
Hitler came to power in 1933.
Goran, Morris, The Story of Fritz Haber (1967).
James, Laylin K., ed., Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, 1901–1992 (1993).
Stern, Fritz, Einstein's German World (1999).
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