As the wife of Fritz Haber, the father of chemical warfare, and a scientist in her own right, Dr. Clara Immerwahr made the ultimate protest of her husband’s work by committing suicide. Immerwahr was the daughter of an industrial chemist turned farmer, and discovered her own love of chemistry while studying at a teacher’s seminary in Breslau. In 1898 she became the first woman to pass the qualifying exams for chemistry at Breslau University, and in 1900 became the first woman to earn a doctorate in chemistry from a German university. She worked as a lab assistant and researcher, and gave a few lectures to women’s groups on “Physics and Chemistry in the Household,” but found few opportunities open to women scientists. After her marriage to Fritz Haber in 1901 she collaborated with her husband on his work, including a textbook on thermodynamics of gas reaction, but the public didn’t recognize her contributions. Then, in 1915, Haber proposed that the German military use chlorine gas to wipe out their enemies, and designed gas masks to protect German troops. Five thousand died in the first attack alone. The night of the party to celebrate Haber’s successful tactic, Immerwahr shot herself with his gun. Although Haber won the Nobel Prize in 1918 for creating a fertilizer that prevented mass famine, his darker contributions to science were never forgotten.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Clara Immerwahr." (Viewed on December 14, 2017) <https://jwa.org/people/immerwahr-clara>.