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Cafe Scientifique - Chemical Warfare

*** I won't be attending so needs a Cafe E volunteer to organise meeting if, should you wish to ***

To coincide with the centenary of the start of World War One, Professor Andrew Nelson talks on the history, ethics and science of chemical warfare.

One hundred years ago the UK and its allies embarked on the Great War, a conflict which would lead to the death of ten million combatants. One of the most terrible aspects of the war was that chemical weapons were used extensively for the first time. As the centenary of the war approaches, Prof Nelson will review the history, science and ethics of chemical warfare. He will discuss several aspects of chemical warfare and ask why the whole world feels such a revulsion against them (compared with other destructive weapons, such as cluster bombs, landmines, etc).

Chemical weapons frightened Adolf Hitler so much that he never deployed them militarily against the allies in World War II, although he used them to kill civilians in the death camps. Another paradox is that the pioneer of chemical warfare was the brilliant intellectual (and enigmatic) scientist Fritz Haber. Prof Nelson will focus on Fritz Haber and ask why such a gifted innovative chemist devoted some of his years to developing the most efficient ways of gassing his fellow humans.

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  • Adrian

    Fritz Haber had a very interesting yet tragic life. He succeeded in creating a chemical process that could achieve the miracle of extracting nitrogen from the air to be converted into ammonia which was then used in fertilisers. Some people believe that this prevented the human population at the time from experiencing starvation and ultimately led to an increase in world population. However, he personally supervised the use of chemical warfare in the trenches and tragically he helped develop chemicals which were ultimately used to kill many members of his own family.

    July 3, 2014

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