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Scientist Finds Good and Evil Uses for His Invention

Fritz Haber is probably the most important person in your life that you've never heard of. He was a secularized Jew in Germany who started to make his mark just prior to World War I. Haber was a chemist, who was married to a brilliant woman named Clara. Before World War I, in the midst of a looming food shortage in Germany, Haber discovered a way to separate the nitrogen out of the air that produced an ammonia drip. This ammonia could be put into fertilizer. Fritz Haber is the one of the main reasons that the world today can support almost seven billion people through fertilizer.

If this is all you know about Fritz Haber's life you might think, This man was good because he made a tremendous difference in the world. But there's more to Fritz Haber's life. He was also a very loyal German who signed up to fight in World War I. As the war progressed, he made an ammonia gas that could kill enemy soldiers.

In 1915 at Ypres, Belgium, Haber turned on his gas machine, and a great green cloud about the size of a whale emerged. The soldiers on the other side could see it coming across the no-man's land. As it approached, every living thing in its path dried up and died. Then it hit the Allied soldiers on the frontlines, and it killed every last soldier. The lingering gas even hurt innocent civilians. Haber thought this was a grand success.

The German officials agreed. Haber went back home to visit Clara, and she expressed outrage at his gas machine. The very thing that he had used to save lives was now an instrument of death. Clara confronted him, but he did not want to listen to her. So in the middle of the night, she took his service revolver, walked out into their garden, and shot herself in the heart. The next morning Haber put on his uniform and went back to the frontlines to unleash more of his deadly gas.

After the war Haber tried to help Germany pay the tremendous war reparations by devising a process to distill gold from seawater. But when Hitler rose to power, he decreed that all the Jews who worked for Haber had to be fired. Haber resigned in protest and left Germany, but no one would receive him. He died alone, unloved.

Is the world better or worse because he lived? How do we categorize Fritz Haber? You and I are no different than Fritz Haber. We don't easily fit into the category of good or bad. But we don't have the right to examine ourselves. The final judgment is not left to us. Scripture is very clear that God has declared us all unrighteous. Like Haber even the good things we do are tainted by underlying wickedness.

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