Clara Immerwahr

Clara Immerwahr (21 June 1870 – 2 May 1915)

Clara Immerwahr, a German chemist, was the first German woman to be awarded a doctorate in chemistry.

She married Fritz Haber in 1901 but shot herself in 1915 in protest at his work with chemical weapons.

Clara died in the arms of her only child, Herman Haber, who later also committed suicide.

In Phosphate Rocks, a retired shift foreman finds a bullet in a cargo of phosphate rock.

John bent to where a pile of phosphate rock had spilt from the elevator, a conical archive containing different strata from each cargo. The colour of the top layer, from the new Jordanian phosphate, was darker than the Senegalese layer below.

He scooped a little from the base of the cone and let it run through his hands. The powdered rock was finer than normal, almost greasy to the touch, except for the little pieces of grit mixed in among the fine particles.


John nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of a muffled explosion. The vibrations from the top of the
elevator startled Becksy so much he dropped the grease gun and hit the red mushroom-shaped button beside the pulley.

The elevator groaned to a halt. John raced up the stairs. He found the bullet, still smoking, trapped in a sieving screen, amid pebbles and shells. He was used to finding cartridge cases, but it wasn’t often that live ammunition survived the journey. No serious damage was done: the bullet had torn through the side of one bucket, ricocheted off the structural steelwork of the elevator and fallen onto the oversize mesh above the rubber conveyor belt.

He held the curious object gingerly, marvelling at the way a cold, hard instrument of death could be transformed into curves that were almost organic, splattered into something quite beautiful.

He slipped it, still warm, into his pocket.

Exploding bullets in the Jordanian phosphate were the least of his problems.

A far more sinister time-bomb had started ticking.

Phosphate Rocks: A Death in Ten Objects is published by Sandstone Press and available to order here.