Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production

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MIT Press, 2004 - Technology & Engineering - 338 pages
3 Reviews

The industrial synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen has been of greater fundamental importance to the modern world than the invention of the airplane, nuclear energy, space flight, or television. The expansion of the world's population from 1.6 billion people in 1900 to today's six billion would not have been possible without the synthesis of ammonia.In Enriching the Earth, Vaclav Smil begins with a discussion of nitrogen's unique status in the biosphere, its role in crop production, and traditional means of supplying the nutrient. He then looks at various attempts to expand natural nitrogen flows through mineral and synthetic fertilizers. The core of the book is a detailed narrative of the discovery of ammonia synthesis by Fritz Haber -- a discovery scientists had sought for over one hundred years -- and its commercialization by Carl Bosch and the chemical company BASF. Smil also examines the emergence of the large-scale nitrogen fertilizer industry and analyzes the extent of global dependence on the Haber-Bosch process and its biospheric consequences. Finally, it looks at the role of nitrogen in civilization and, in a sad coda, describes the lives of Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch after the discovery of ammonia synthesis.

  

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Review: Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production

User Review  - Seth McClure - Goodreads

I'm really glad other people like this book. It was making me feel strange to say that one of my favorite books was about the synthetic production of fertilizer. Read full review

Review: Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production

User Review  - Dean - Goodreads

Vaclav Smil brilliantly weaves history and science in this tale of one of the most important inventions of the 20th Century. The Haber-Bosch Process is the one that people are talking about when they ... Read full review

Contents

Nitrogen in Agriculture
1
Traditional Sources of Nitrogen
21
New Sources of the Nutrient
39
A Brilliant Discovery
61
BASF and Haber
74
Designing HighPressure Converters
87
Ammonia Synthesis for War
103
Expansion and Changes Since 1950
116
The Most Productive Agroecosystems
152
Consequences of the Dependence
177
Nitrogen and Civilization
199
Postscript
223
Appendixes
233
Notes
253
Name Index
329
Copyright

Synthetic Fertilizers
133

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About the author (2004)

(2010), all published by the MIT Press. He was awarded the 2007 Olivia Schieffelin Nordberg Award for excellence in writing and editing in the population sciences.

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