(Roughly) Daily

“The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being”*…

 

Historians are torn on how to judge Fritz Haber. Billions of people would not exist without him. And yet without him, World War I would have ended years earlier. Millions would have been spared a gruesome death and millions more a shattered life…

The story of the man who introduced chemical warfare, then three years later won the Nobel Prize for discovering how to capture nitrogen from the air (and thus, making fertilizer widely and affordably available): “The Tragedy of Fritz Haber: The Monster Who Fed The World.”

* Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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As we muse on Manichaeism, we might spare a thought for Paul Marie Eugène Vieille; he died on this date in 1934.  A chemist, he is best known for his invention of smokeless powder. Military commanders since the Napoleonic Wars had problems giving orders on a battlefield swathed in thick smoke from the gunpowder used by the guns. In 1886 Vieille invented a smokeless gunpowder called “Poudre B.”  Made from gelatinized nitrocellulose mixed with ether and alcohol, it was passed through rollers to form thin sheets, which were cut with a guillotine to flakes of the desired size.  Beyond clearing the view for battlefield commanders, it revolutionized the effectiveness of small guns and rifles: it was much more powerful than gun powder, giving an accurate rifle range of up to 1000 yards.

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Written by LW

January 14, 2017 at 1:01 am

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