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Szöllösi-Janze, Margit (2017): The Scientist as Expert. Fritz Haber and German Chemical Warfare During the First World War and Beyond. In: Friedrich, Bretislav; Hoffmann, Dieter; Renn, Jürgen; Schmaltz, Florian und Wolf, Martin (Hrsg.): One hundred years of chemical warfare: Research, deployment, consequences. Cham: Springer Open. S. 11-23


In the course of the First World War, scientists who would in peacetime generate new knowledge assumed the role of experts, i.e., professionals who made extant knowledge accessible to non-scientist clients. The deepest conviction of Fritz Haber, the 1918 Chemistry Nobel laureate, was that problems faced by mankind could be solved by means of science and technology. Herein, Haber is interpreted as a personification of an early German expert culture. Acting as both mediator and organizer, Haber coaxed politicians, generals, industrial leaders, and scientists to join forces in developing new processes for the mass-production of war-relevant chemicals and in establishing large-scale industries for their manufacture. Among the chemicals produced were poison gases—the first weapons of mass extermination. Haber’s leadership resulted in a conglomerate of enterprises similar to what we now call “big science”. In close contact with “big industry”, traditional science was transformed into a new type of applied research. With borderlines between the military and civilian use blurred, Fritz Haber’s activities also represent an early example of what we now call “dual use”. He initiated modern pest control by toxic substances, whereby he made use of a military product for civilian purposes, but went also the other way around: During the Weimar era, he used pest control as a disguise for illegal military research. Having emerged under the stress of war, scientific expertise would remain ambivalent—a permanent legacy of the First World War.