A Fertile Chemist

Today is the birthday of Karl Bosch, a German chemist born in 1874 whose research led to industrial production of chemical fertilizers and explosives. Building on the work of chemist Fritz Haber, who had found a way to produce ammonia with the help of high pressure and metal catalysts, Bosch scaled up the process for industrial use. In 1914, Bosch pulled off a landmark feat of chemical engineering when the first ammonia plant using the Haber-Bosch process was completed in Oppau, Germany. His work made it possible for the first time to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, and that meant that nitrogen compounds, such as fertilizers and explosives, could be produced without having to rely on the only known natural deposits of nitrates in Chile. For this accomplishment, Bosch received a share of the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1931.

[Source: Porter, Roy, Ed. The Biographical Dictionary of Scientists, Second Edition. Oxford University Press. 1994.]

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