The Man Who Killed Millions and Saved Billions

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Fritz Haber is the scientist who arguably most transformed the world. Part of this video is sponsored by Wren. Offset your carbon footprint on Wren: ​ . For the first 100 people who sign up, I will personally pay for the first month of your subscription!

A huge thanks to Dan Charles for writing a fantastic biography of Fritz Haber, for taking the time to talk to us about it, and providing valuable feedback. This video would not be what it is without his contributions.

Thanks to Tom de Prinse from Explosions and Fire for helping us with the chemistry of explosives. If you like explosions and/or fire, you will love his channel.

Thanks to Michael Kuiper of CSIRO for the animation of the composition of air -

Special thanks to Sonya Pemberton, Karl Kruszelnicki, Mary Dobbie, Olivia McRae, and the patreon supporters for giving us feedback on the earlier version of this video.


The primary reference used is Vaclav Smil’s excellent book, Enriching The Earth -
Smil, V. (2004). Enriching the earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the transformation of world food production. MIT press. -

Mastermind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare, by Dan Charles -

Stoltzenberg, D. (2004). Fritz Haber: Chemist, Nobel Laureate, German, Jew. Chemical Heritage Foundation. -

Postgate, J. R. (1982). The fundamentals of nitrogen fixation. CUP Archive. -

Miles, A. G. (1992). Biological nitrogen fixation. -

Friedrich, B., & Hoffmann, D. (2017). Clara Immerwahr: A life in the shadow of Fritz Haber. In One Hundred Years of Chemical Warfare: Research, Deployment, Consequences(pp. 45-67). Springer, Cham. -

Da Silva, G. (2020). What is ammonium nitrate, the chemical that exploded in Beirut. Sci Am, 5. -

Rodrigues, P., & Micael, J. (2021). The importance of guano birds to the Inca Empire and the first conservation measures implemented by humans. -

Allison, F. E. (1957). Nitrogen and soil fertility. Soil, the, 85-94. -

Crookes, W. (1898). Address of the President before the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Bristol, 1898. Science, 8(200), 561-575. -

Special thanks to Patreon supporters: RayJ Johnson, Brian Busbee, Jerome Barakos M.D., Amadeo Bee, Julian Lee, Inconcision, TTST, Balkrishna Heroor, Chris LaClair, Avi Yashchin, John H. Austin, Jr.,, Matthew Gonzalez, Eric Sexton, john kiehl, Diffbot, Gnare, Dave Kircher, Burt Humburg, Blake Byers, Dumky, Evgeny Skvortsov, Meekay, Bill Linder, Paul Peijzel, Josh Hibschman, Timothy O’Brien, Mac Malkawi, Michael Schneider, jim buckmaster, Juan Benet, Ruslan Khroma, Robert Blum, Richard Sundvall, Lee Redden, Vincent, Stephen Wilcox, Marinus Kuivenhoven, Michael Krugman, Cy 'kkm' K'Nelson, Sam Lutfi, Ron Neal

Written by Petr Lebedev, Derek Muller, Felicity Nelson and Kovi Rose
Edited by Trenton Oliver
Animation by Jakub Mistek, Fabio Albertelli, Ivy Tello, Alex Drakoulis, Nils Ramses Kullack, and Charlie Davies
SFX by Shaun Clifford
Filmed by Petr Lebedev, Derek Muller and Raquel Nuno
Photo of nitrogen deficiency in rice from
Additional video/photos supplied by Getty Images
Music from Epidemic Sound:

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21 Jul 2022



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Comentários 19 939
Let's use chemistry for good! If you want to offset your carbon emissions I will personally cover the first month of your subscription at
daanish dan
As Isaac Asimov once said, “The saddest aspect of society right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."
No one fits the saying, "you either die the hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.", better than this man, Fritz Haber.
I learned about this guy during an ethics in science class I had to take in college. One man encapsulating our highest highs and lowest lows as a species.
Humble Narrator
This is a perfect illustration from human history showing how "gray", or nuanced, the world really is. Great video and message, thank you.
After Skool
After Skool 14 dias atrás
Brilliant video. Very insightful conclusion at the end.
Asish Reddy
Who knew a paragraph in our chemistry textbooks mentioning Haber’s process had left out so much rich history, euphoria and sadness. Thank you veritasium for telling us such amazing stories.
Awoken Entertainment
It's incredible the impact this one man had..
Fukou da
I think his story is the perfect example of how being short sighted is one of the most dangerous things you can be. Man never really thought at depth at what he was doing until it was too late.
"He who increases knowledge, also increases sorrow" or - " we were so busy wondering if we could, we never asked if we should!" He simultaneously solved the human problem at either end. We live like a firework burning brightly, but only for a brief moment in time. Then darkness.
I'm glad you guys covered his story. I live in Ludwigshafen, the birth city of the BASF, and for most of us, it's a known fact that the BASF made one of its biggest breaks by producing Ammonia. It would later on lead to the BASF becoming one of the biggest global players when it comes to chemical companies worldwide.
Michele Del Giudice
Michele Del Giudice 21 dia atrás
It's crazy how desperately we want to categorize people as either heroes or villains.
Pen and Paper Science
"He is probably one of the most impactful and tragic scientists of all time."
azza alshelly
I live in Syria, when the war started , fertilisers started to dissappear and farmers had a hard time with their work , corrupted people who had access to fertilisers sold it to terrorist groups.. the government then was trying to give it to only farmers, but the prices also went hight cause of what happened. I used to get scared when I saw a truck full of fertiliser bags that's how many attacks happened back then , but my dad is also a farmer so I have mixed feelings towards this whole thing .
Sai Rohit
there's a way how Derek tells us stories whilst giving us knowledge. it's just amazing how he spends so much time on research and getting these videos right. This is one of the best videos from this channel. Definitely in top 10.
Lucky Stranger
Lucky Stranger 2 dias atrás
He is the example of a person who wants to help everyone the best it can, without much control of the rest
Sanjeet Sahay
Sanjeet Sahay 21 dia atrás
This could be your best video ever because of its immaculate writing, excellent narration, and that touch of humanity at the end.
It always amazes me how Veritasium can tell you about fascinating topics that you didn't even know existed. After every video I feel like I can understand the world at least a tiny bit more.
The Rest Of Us
Awesome video, thanks so much! In Germany most high school kids know Haber’s story as a cautionary tale.
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