FHI Centenary Group
Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Centennial Project
FHI Centenary Group
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Chemistry's old and new elites in Nazi Germany:
the Nobel laureates Fritz Haber and Richard Kuhn

Speaker: Prof. Ute Deichmann (Jacques Loeb Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel)

The chemists Fritz Haber (1868-1934) and Richard Kuhn (1900-1968) were leading scientific figures in the German empire and in Nazi Germany, respectively. Both were loyal patriots and collaborated at the highest level with the state and the military. Yet despite biographical similarities, there were substantial personal and contextual differences: Haber was a Jew, Kuhn was not; Haber contributed to the efforts of the First World War, Kuhn to those of World War II. A comparison of Haber’s and Kuhn’s scientific and political activities raises important questions about the interaction of science and politics, the consequences of this interaction for both domains and the moral evaluation of scientists involved in politics. It also sheds light on the difficult beginning, further development, and abrupt end of Jewish participation in German academia and the impact on science that all of this entailed.

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