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

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Overview

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.

The MIT Press

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher

"I am tremendously impressed with this book. It will make a verysignificant contribution to the literature on the Haber-Bosch processof nitrogen synthesis, but perhaps even more significant, to puttinginto perspective the importance of nitrogen fertilizer tohumanity." E. T. York, Chancellor Emeritus,
University System ofFlorida, and Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Institute ofFood and Agriculture Sciences, University of Florida

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262693134
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 358
  • Sales rank: 463,973
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Vaclav Smil is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba.
He is the author of more than thirty books, including Harvesting the
Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature
and, most recently,
Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing,
both published by the MIT Press. In 2010 he was named by Foreign
Policy
as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. In 2013 Bill Gates wrote on his website that "there is no author whose books I look forward to more than
Vaclav Smil."
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Transforming the World
1 Nitrogen in Agriculture 1
2 Traditional Sources of Nitrogen 21
3 New Sources of the Nutrient 39
4 A Brilliant Discovery 61
5 Creating an Industry 83
6 Evolution of Ammonia Synthesis 109
7 Synthetic Fertilizers 133
8 Our Dependence on Nitrogen 155
9 Consequences of the Dependence 177
10 Nitrogen and Civilization 199
Postscript 223
Appendixes 233
Notes 253
Name Index 329
Subject Index 331
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