Fritz Haber (1868-1934)

Friedrich ('Fritz') Haber was born in Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland) on 9 December 1868. After studying in Berlin and Heidelberg, he worked briefly in industry. He then undertook research on electrochemistry and gas reactions at Karlsruhe Polytechnic, where he was given a professorship in 1898.

After his development of the ammonia synthesis in 1909, he was appointed director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical and Electrochemistry at Dahlem, Berlin, in 1911. During the First World War, he was in charge of Germany’s chemical warfare programme. Haber was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1918 for the ammonia synthesis.

In the 1920s, he tried to extract gold from seawater to pay off Germany’s reparations. As a Jew, he was dismissed from his institute by the new Nazi regime in 1933, despite his war service. Haber died in Basle on 29 January 1934 while trying to find an academic position outside Germany.