Core and hinterland: What’s what and why it matters

A Chemical Orthodoxy

In 1918, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to a war criminal.

In the early years of the 20th century, German scientist Fritz Haber developed a process to artificially synthesise ammonia, a vital component of agricultural fertilisers. A reaction that changed the world, his process drove a ballooning in industrial agriculture and, with the fullness of time, allowed for a population explosion and the pulling of billions of people out of poverty.

But Haber’s oeuvre extended from the globally beneficial to the sinister. A fervent nationalist, in World War I he turned his brilliance to the German war effort and pioneered the use of chemical weaponry on the battlefield, personally supervising the first administration of deadly chlorine gas in the trenches of Flanders.

Despite these contributions to the Fatherland, Haber was forced to leave Germany because he had Jewish ancestry: an ancestry he despised. In a grimly ironic turn…

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