Chet, Ilan

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CHET, ILAN (1939– ), Israeli microbiologist and pioneer of biological control in agriculture. Chet was about to complete his Ph.D. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Faculty of Agriculture in Reḥovot when he was called up by the army on the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967. Sustaining head injuries and losing his eyesight in the fighting, he dictated his doctoral dissertation to his wife while lying in a hospital bed. Fortunately, he regained his sight, but was nevertheless physically unable to use one of his key research tools, the electron microscope. Changing his academic direction while remaining within the field of molecular biology, he conducted his postdoctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin and later transferred to the Department of Applied Microbiology at Harvard University. In 1975 Chet was appointed associate professor at the Hebrew University's Faculty of Agriculture and in 1978 full professor. He was named founder and director of the Otto Warburg Center of Biotechnology in Agriculture, Reḥovot (1983–86; 1990–92); dean of the Faculty of Agriculture (1986–89); and vice president for research and development at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1992–2001). Chet also worked as senior scientist at DuPont, Delaware, U.S., and as a member of the scientific advisory committees of both the European Union and nato. He was a member of the United Nations Panel for Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology for ten years and was a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities from 1998. In December 2001 he became president of the Weizmann Institute of Science. He received many important awards, including the Israel Prize (1996), the Wolf Prize (1998), and the emet Prize (2003).

His research focuses on the use of environment-friendly microorganisms for the improvement of plant resistance, reducing the need for pesticides. He has published more than 340 articles in international scientific journals, edited four books in his field, and holds 33 patents. Two products based on his research, which improve plant resistance, have been marketed.

[Bracha Rager (2nd ed.)]