Getting History Right | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 93 Issue 12 | p. 2 | Letters
Issue Date: March 23, 2015

Getting History Right

Department: Letters

The profile of tattooed “chemistry ambassador” Randa Roland is beneath the level of your magazine’s aspirations (C&EN, Jan. 19, page 30). First, Roland errs in describing Fritz Haber as “trying to do good” and succeeding when he developed the Haber process during World War I. Haber was explicitly trying to convert elementary nitrogen chemically to ammonia to be used in synthesizing explosives in the interest of the German war effort.

Moreover, he directed the chemical warfare effort of the German forces that developed the use of poison gas. History has not been kind to the alleged “good” of these activities.

Second, showing one’s chemistry-themed tattoos around is more likely to develop interest in tattoos than science. Gimmicks never really work, because STEM study requires hard thinking, not oohing and aahing.

Al Holtzer
St. Louis

Chemical & Engineering News
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