A Most Damnable Invention: Dynamite, Nitrates, and the Making of the Modern World

A Most Damnable Invention Dynamite Nitrates and the Making of the Modern World Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel s discovery of dynamite made possible the famous industrial megaprojects that transformed the countryside and defined the era including the St Gothard rail tunnel through

  • Title: A Most Damnable Invention: Dynamite, Nitrates, and the Making of the Modern World
  • Author: Stephen R. Bown
  • ISBN: 9780312329136
  • Page: 179
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel s discovery of dynamite made possible the famous industrial megaprojects that transformed the countryside and defined the era, including the St Gothard rail tunnel through the Alps, the clearing of New York harbor, the Panama Canal, and countless others Dynamite also caused terrible injuries and great loss of life, and, in some cases, incalcuSwedish chemist Alfred Nobel s discovery of dynamite made possible the famous industrial megaprojects that transformed the countryside and defined the era, including the St Gothard rail tunnel through the Alps, the clearing of New York harbor, the Panama Canal, and countless others Dynamite also caused terrible injuries and great loss of life, and, in some cases, incalculable and irreparable environmental damage Nobel was one of the richest men in a society rapidly transforming under the power of his invention, but with a troubled conscience, he left his estate to the establishment of the world famous prizes that bear his name As the use of explosives soared and growing populations consumed food, nations scrambled for the scarce yet vital organic ingredient needed for both The quest for nitrates takes us from the rural stables and privies of preindustrial Europe to the monopoly trading plantations in India and to the Atacama Desert in South America Nitrates were as valuable in the nineteenth century as oil is in the twenty first and were the cause of similar international jockeying and power politics The nitrogen problem of creating inorganic nitrates was solved by an enigmatic German scientist named Fritz Haber His breakthrough not only prolonged the First World War but became the foundation of the green revolution and the tripling of world population since then Haber is also known as the father of gas warfare for his work on poison gas When he was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in chemistry, it sparked international outrage and condemnation A Most Damnable Invention is a human tale of scientific obsession, shadowy immorality, and historical irony, and a testament to the capacity for human ingenuity during times of war.

    • A Most Damnable Invention: Dynamite, Nitrates, and the Making of the Modern World « Stephen R. Bown
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      Published :2019-07-23T10:31:39+00:00

    About “Stephen R. Bown”

    1. Stephen R. Bown

      facebook srbownI am a critically acclaimed author of nine literary non fiction books on the history of science, exploration and ideas I take a biographical and narrative approach to my writing, using the techniques of fiction writing strong storytelling, creative language, emphasizing people, their decisions, actions and motivations to tell factually and historically accurate stories I believe that people and their behavior never change, only the context is different My lifelong interest in history is fueled by the lessons to be learned from studying the successes and failures of history s greatest thinkers, leaders and innovators, those who challenged conventional thinking and entrenched power structures to change their world I am particularly interested in how the world we live in today was formed by individuals who were responding to the big challenges of their time, and in particular, how and why those individuals became pioneers.I live in a small town in the Rocky Mountains with my wife Nicky and two kids When I m not writing I m usually reading, mountain biking, hiking and camping in the summer, and downhill and cross country skiing in the winter.My website stephenrbown includes information about my books including reviews and awards.

    318 thoughts on “A Most Damnable Invention: Dynamite, Nitrates, and the Making of the Modern World”

    1. What's in a name?A name gives a person identity. But how he lives his life eventually gives more meaning than a name can."A Most Damnable Invention: Dynamite, Nitrates, and the Making of the Modern World" recounts in a concise yet very informative manner a brief history of explosives and the two people who revolutionized the modern explosives and fertilizer history: Alfred Nobel and Fritz Haber, respectively.The first one, Alfred Nobel, was the Swedish chemist/inventor who discovered how to tame [...]



    2. Нобеловата награда е учредена според завещанието на Алфред Нобел - един от най-богатите хора в Европа края на 19 в който е натрупал своето състояние благодарение на своето изобретение: динамита.Малко хора знаят това, а още по-малко хора знаят, че значителна част от усилията н [...]


    3. This was a short quick read for me. It was a bit of a disappointment. it felt like a bunch of separate stories glued together. (E.g the influence of nitrates on the India trade, Nobel's life work, the establishment of the Nobel prize, and Haber's work on the fixation of nitrogen.) The author relied entirely on secondary sources, and resorts to quoting them extensively. This leaves me thinking I should just go read Keegan and cut out the middleman. There was minimal chemistry detail and I didn't [...]


    4. A micro-history revolving around the impact of two men - Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, and Fritz Haber, whose process for creating ammonia allowed the artificial production of the nitrates that are used in explosives and fertilizers. Haber's process extended the First World War by a number of years, but also allowed for the world's population growth as it allowed for greater quantities of food to be grown through the use of artificial fertilizers. As with all micro-histories, the book [...]


    5. The impact of nitrates on the world. This book mostly focuses on Alfred Nobel and the development of dynamite and other explosives. The brief description of Frietz Haber, a famous German chemist, did a good job detailing his role in developing the process for fixing nitrogen and more notoriously in the development of chemical warfare in WWI. The story of Haber however is limited to a single chapter. Those interested in Haber should read Hitler's scientists for a more detail discusion. Overall I [...]


    6. Dynamites and nitrates have significantly impacted both the military and modern world. This book traces the history of dynamites and nitrates, including looking at the life of Alfred Nobel (he of the Nobel prizes), the geopolitical impact and struggle of explosives, and the engineering and farming impact of mass development possible through nitrates. This packs a lot of information into its pages while remaining eminently readable. The micro-historical stories and moments described in these page [...]


    7. A solid overview of an interesting subject: the way nitrates have contributed to some of humankinds' worst behaviors (through TNT and other explosives) and best ones (through nitrogen fertilizers). It includes the mesmerizing story of Fritz Haber, who figured out how to create a process for making nitrogen usable, but in the process helped develop the poison gas used in the concentration camps, which kept him from being honored despite having won the Nobel Prize.


    8. Popular survey of the use of gunpowder and then nitroglycerine for civil engineering, weapons and eventually fertilizer, with side trips to guano islands, the Nobel Prizes and the sad career of Fritz Haber. This is pedestrian commodity history with no footnotes and an emphasis on colorful characters and explosions.


    9. A wonderful excursion into a much neglected part of modern life. Who would have thought that guano was so important in the lead up to WW1?




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