The Nobel Peace Prize. Some people with a lot of blood on their hands have been awarded Nobel Peace Prizes, people like Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger, who got a Nobel Peace Prize during the Vietnam War. This happens because the Nobel Prize committee sometimes gives peace prizes to people as an incentive to make peace rather than as a reward for actually making peace. And sometimes they award a Nobel Peace Prize to somebody for no apparent reason at all, like the one they gave to Barack Obama soon after be became President of the U.S. As at a press conference shortly after the prize was announced, Obama said he truly had no idea why he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Prize for Chemistry and/or Physics. This award is usually noncontroversial and goes to worthy recipients like Marie Curie and Albert Einstein. However, some terrible people have also received a Nobel prize in science. Who was the worst of them? My vote goes to the German chemist Fritz Haber. Fritz Haber was the father of chemical warfare. He invented the first poison gas weapons, beginning with chlorine gas, which he invented shortly after World War 1 began in 1914. Later that same year, Haber invented mustard gas, which is even deadlier. Fritz Haber’s wife Clara, who was a noted chemist in her own right, was horrified by her husband’s work and tried unsuccessfully to get him to give it up. She became increasingly depressed as her husband enthusiastically invented ever more deadly poison gases. In 1915, Clara shot herself in the heart and died. In her suicide note, she begged her husband to give up his work with poison gas. By the end of World 1, over 1 million men were killed or permanently disabled by poison gases invented by Fritz Haber. In 1918, at the end of the war, Fritz Haber was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry. What were they thinking!?! In the 1920s, Fritz Haber invented Zyklon, a form of cyanide gas, similar to mustard gas. Zyklon was used by the Nazis to murder millions of Jews, including most of Haber’s own relatives. When Hitler came to power in Germany, Fritz Haber moved to Switzerland, where he died unrepentant right to the end. Shortly before World War 2 began, Fritz Haber’s son Hermann Haber moved to the United States. He too became depressed thinking about his father’s work and committed suicide in 1946. Fritz Haber reminds me of Dr. Frankenstein, the mad scientist who was completely oblivious to the moral dimension of what he was doing. It seems to me that the Nobel Prize committee was also completely oblivious to the moral dimension of what they were doing when they awarded a Nobel Prize to Fritz Haber.