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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made
people:Clara Haber
Born: 21 June 1870, Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland)
Died: 2 May 1915, Berlin, Germany

The first woman to receive a PhD in chemistry and wife of the scientist Fritz Haber.

Born Clara Immerwahr, Haber studied at the University of Breslau gaining her degree and a PhD in chemistry. In 1901 she married Fritz Haber. Confined by marriage and society she was unable to conduct further scientific research. Instead she contributed, without credit, to her husband's work, translating his papers and books into English to further his career.

When the First World War turned into a stalemate, with both sides stuck in trenches, Fritz, an ardent patriot, devoted himself to the development of poison gas. On 22 April 1915 he directed the first gas attack in military history in Flanders, Belgium.

Having spread panic and death among the British and French soldiers opposing the German forces, he returned home to Berlin. A few days later Clara picked up his Army pistol and turned it on herself.

Her suicide was not announced in the newspaper and no autopsy report or letters exist. Accounts indicate that she had been unhappy with her life for many years and was repelled by her husband's work with poison gas, which she saw as the 'perversion of science'.

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