Bergmann, Felix Eliezer
BERGMANN, FELIX ELIEZER
BERGMANN, FELIX ELIEZER (1908–2002), Israeli organic chemist and pharmacologist. Born in Frankfurt on the Oder, Germany, to Hedwig (née Rosenzweig) and Dr. Judah Bergmann, who was a rabbi in Berlin and wrote on Jewish subjects, he received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1933 from the Humboldt University in Berlin. Concurrently, he studied medicine, but received his diploma only after World War ii. An active Zionist from his youth, he left for Palestine in 1933.
Bergman, belonged to the founding generation of science in Israel. Together with his eldest brother, Ernst David *Bergmann, he was among the founders of the Sieff Institute in Reḥovot in 1934. Immediately upon his arrival in Israel, he was approached by the *Haganah, to find an explosive that would be safer than the gelignite then in use. Thus, concurrently with his research on polycyclic carcinogens at the Sieff Institute, he developed an efficient industrial method for producing the explosive petn, nicknamed in Hebrew "Ten." His devotion to scientific research was rivaled only by his dedication to the security of Israel. He conducted weapons research for the Haganah, developing, with a team of brilliant young Jewish scientists he recruited abroad, rocket fuel for the first locally made rockets, which were used effectively in the War of Independence. He was a key-figure in the founding of Ḥemed, the Army Science Corps, before the establishment of the State; after its dissolution, he continued as adviser to the Ministry of Defense and the Biological Research Institute in Nes Ẓiyyonah. Bergmann was also a scientific advisor to the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. In 1950 he joined the newly founded Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, where he established the Department of Pharmacology (1956) and its teaching curriculum. Bergmann served as head of department until his retirement (1976). His background in both chemistry and medicine enabled him to engage in a broad spectrum of research areas, ranging from organic chemistry to biochemistry, and from pharmacology to physiology and neurology. Already during World War ii, he was instrumental in synthesizing an anti-malarial drug for the British army. Notable among his varied fields of research was his extensive work on the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, particularly in the elucidation of the mechanism of action of its degrading enzyme, acetylcholinesterase. Later on, he was engaged in the characterization of the activity of xanthine oxidase, another enzyme of major biological and medical importance. He trained generations of Ph.D. and M.Sc. students in chemistry, pharmacology, and biology who later held key positions in universities and in industrial research. Bergmann was a member of the Israeli Academy of Sciences.
[Hanna Scolnicov (2nd ed.)]