Bentor, Jacob

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BENTOR, JACOB (1910–2002), geologist specializing in the geology, petrology, and tectonics of the Middle East. Bentor was born in Koenigsberg, Germany, and after studying linguistics at the Sorbonne in Paris and physical science there and in Berlin immigrated to Ereẓ Israel in 1933, where he continued his studies, including geology, at the Hebrew University as well as in Switzerland and France. Back in Palestine in 1940 he completed his Ph. D. theses at the Hebrew University in 1945 and in Clermont-Ferrrand in 1952. During World War ii he was a consultant to the British administration on various geological projects and in 1949 he joined Ḥemed Gimmel (the Israeli army science corps) and headed the national efforts to map the Negev's natural resources and evaluate its economic potential. One of the major products of this activity was the Geological Map of the Negev, 1:100,000, which included the mapping of Israel's major mineral deposits – the Negev phosphates and the Timna copper. For this achievement Bentor and his colleague A. Vroman were awarded the Israel Prize for science in 1953. Until 1966 he was at the head of all national mineral and energy resources enterprises, including the Dead Sea resources, the Negev phosphates, Timna copper ore, and petroleum exploration. During his work he also discovered new geological phenomena, such as combustion metamorphism, a contribution in the field of mineralogy that has been recognized by the international mineralogical community, with the mineral "bentorite" being named in his honor. He introduced many new scientific disciplines, such as geochemistry, marine geology, and seismology to the entire earth science community in Israel, and especially to his many students at the Hebrew University, where he was appointed associate professor in 1957 and full professor in 1963. In 1967–74 he headed a large-scale geological study of the Sinai Peninsula. Focusing on the Precambrian Basement of this area, he made a major contribution to the understanding of the Precambrian Arabian Massif and guided many research projects in the framework of this study. He also had a long-term interest in the possible geological origin of many events chronicled in myth and history and wrote on geological events in the Bible. Bentor headed many national and international scientific committees, including the Council for Oceanographic Research, the World Geological Map Project, and the Council of the International Committee for the Scientific Research of the Mediterranean.

He retired from the Hebrew University in 1977 and was associated with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he remained active in his studies on the Precambrian realm and on the combustion metamorphism of the Hatrurim Formation in Israel ("Mottled Zone") as well as of similar phenomena in California. He was a recipient of the Freund Prize of the Israel Geological Society (1986).

[Yossi Bartov (2nd ed.)]