Q: What do you call an element that spends all its time playing hockey on horseback?

A: Polo-nium!

Carl Bosch

Carl Bosch was born on 27th August, 1874 in Cologne, Germany. He was a German chemist and engineer. Carl won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1931 for his contribution in the introduction of high pressure chemistry. The asteroid- 7414 Bosch was named after him in his honour.

Early years

Carl Bosch’s father was a successful gas and plumbing supplier. Bosch studied at the Technical College of Charlottenburg (today the Technische Universitat Berlin) and the University of Leipzig from 1892-1898. At this point, he was trying to decide between a career in metallurgy or chemistry.

Breakthrough in Nitrogen fixing and High Pressure Chemistry

In 1899, Bosch got an entry level job at BASF, the largest chemical and dye firm in Germany at the time. Between 1909 and 1913, he transformed Fritz Haber’s table-top demonstration of fixing nitrogen using high-pressure chemistry into an important industrial process to produce large quantities of fertilizer and explosives. The fully developed system is called the Haber–Bosch Process.

Today, the Haber-Bosch process produces 100 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer every year. This is mostly in the form of anhydrous ammonia, ammonium nitrate and urea. The fertilizer produced sustains one-third of the world’s population. The Haber- Bosch process consumes 3-5 % of the world’s natural gas production which amounts to 1-2 % of the world’s annual energy supply.

Recognition and Awards

Bosch won numerous awards and has been honoured in many ways. He received the honorary doctorate of the Technische Hochschule in Karlsruhe (1918). Bosch was also awarded the Liebig Memorial Medal of the Association of German Chemists, the Bunsen Medal of the German Bunsen Society, the Siemens Ring, and the Golden Grashof Memorial Medal of the VDI (Association of German Engineers).

In 1931, he was awarded the highest international honour, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, jointly with Friedrich Bergius, for their contributions to the invention and development of chemical high pressure methods. Even an asteroid, 7414 Bosch, has been named after him.

Other involvements

Bosch particularly enjoyed his membership of various German and foreign scientific academies, and his chairmanship of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society of which he became the President in 1937.


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