Weizmann Institute of Science

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WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE , a center of scientific research and graduate study, is located on 300 acres (1.2 sq km) of lawns and gardens in the town of Reḥovot, Israel – 14 miles (22 km) south of Tel Aviv and 35 miles (50 km) west of Jerusalem. In 1996, the Institute community numbered 2,400 scientists and support staff, including more than 850 scientists-in-training pursuing advanced degrees at Weizmann's Feinberg Graduate School. In 2005 it numbered 2,500 scientists.

The Institute's campus of some 40 buildings grew out of the Daniel Sieff Research Institute, founded in 1934 by Dr. Chaim *Weizmann, the distinguished scientist and Zionist leader President of Israel. The Sieff Institute was established in memory of Daniel Sieff by his parents, Israel and Rebecca *Sieff of the United Kingdom. On November 2, 1949, with the agreement of the Sieff family, the Institute was renamed and formally dedicated as the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The Institute is administered by a board of governors and an executive council. It is headed by a president assisted by four vice presidents and the deans of the five faculties and the Feinberg Graduate School.

The Institute consists of 18 research departments grouped into five faculties: Biology (Biological Regulation, Immunology, Molecular Cell Biology, Molecular Genetics and Neurobiology), Biophysics-Biochemistry (Biochemistry, Membrane Research and Biophysics and Plant Genetics), Chemistry (Chemical Physics, Environmental Sciences and Energy Research, Materials and Interfaces, Organic Chemistry and Structural Biology), Mathematical Sciences (Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, and Theoretical Mathematics), and Physics (Condensed Matter Physics, Particle Physics and Physics of Complex Systems).

To promote the interdisciplinary contacts which increasingly characterize today's front-line science, the Institute has created 19 research centers, generally organized as intellectual rather than physical entities.

The presidents of the Institute have been: Chaim Weizmann (1949–52); Abba *Eban (1959–66); Meyer W. *Weisgal (1966–69); Albert B. *Sabin (1969–72), Israel Dostrovsky (1973–75), Michael Sela (1975–85), Aryeh Dvoretzky (1985–88) and Haim Harari (1988–2001), and Ilan *Chet (2001– ). From 1952 to 1959, Meyer *Weisgal headed the Institute as chairman of the Executive Council.

The Institute's budget (approximately $181 million in 2004/5) is covered mainly by funds from the Israel government (36%), private donations and research grants (24%), as well as financial and other revenues.

Institute scientists acted as pioneers in various areas of science locally. They were the first to introduce cancer research in Israel, to design and build the first computer in Israel and one of the first anywhere, to establish the first nuclear physics department, the first research accelerators for the study of atomic nuclei, the first and, so far, only, submicron research facility for advancing the electronics industry, and the first advanced solar energy research facility in Israel and one of only a handful worldwide.

More than half of all Institute research is aimed – in one way or another – at battling cancer. Among past achievements is the identification of the genetic origins of some types of leukemia as well as of genes that induce or suppress malignancies. Major efforts are directed at the study of autoimmune diseases, and two medications for multiple sclerosis based on Institute research are already reaching patients. Basic research is elucidating brain structure and function and neurological disease.

At the solar facilities, researchers pursue the development of new ways to harness the sun's energy. Scientists engaged in environment-related studies analyze local aquifers, develop water protection and purification systems. Institute chemists work in areas ranging from basic investigation of the elements to the development of new materials. Photochromic materials that reversibly darken when exposed to sunlight are the result of a Weizmann Institute discovery.

Accomplishments of Institute mathematicians include the development of "smart cards" and decoders that prevent unauthorized access to confidential computer data and commercial satellite tv, and software architecture allowing people to meet "virtually" through the Internet.

Institute physicists first proposed the existence of an elementary particle called the top quark, and contributed to the identification of another particle called a gluon. They now conduct advanced experiments at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (cern) in Geneva and at the desy Laboratory in Hamburg. In the new field of submicron research, scientists are growing crystals in layers no more than a few atoms thick which will result in smaller and faster computer chips for the electronics industry.

The Institute's Feinberg Graduate School, operating under charter from the State of Israel and the Board of Regents of the State of New York, confers M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in the life sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science and science teaching. More than 10 percent of the student body hails from abroad and English is the official language of instruction. Over the years the Feinberg Graduate School has produced more than 30% of Israel's Ph.D.'s in science and its alumni hold key positions both in Israel and overseas.

The Science Teaching Department has played a pioneering role in raising the level of science teaching in primary and secondary schools, and the Youth Activities Section's extracurricular programs introduce thousands of Israeli youngsters each year to the thrill of scientific discovery. The Section also runs the Institute's Garden of Science, a unique hands-on outdoor science park.

The Institute's Yeda Research and Development Company was founded in 1959 to promote the commercial applications of Institute research. By the mid-1990s some 10% of the Institute's operating budget was derived from Yeda's activities. Yeda has been involved in the licensing of scores of patents and technologies to industry, and in the establishment of numerous spin-off companies in Israel and abroad.

The Weizmann Institute played a key role in the founding of Israel's first high-tech industrial park, Kiryat Weizmann, and a new science-based industrial park now under construction near the campus.

The Institute maintains strong ties with preeminent research institutions throughout the world, attracts many foreign scientists (about 600 a year work in its laboratories for varying periods of time), and is a venue for international scientific conferences.

Yad Chaim Weizmann is a memorial area covering Dr. and Mrs. Weizmann's private estate, their graves near their former home and a memorial plaza. It was established after Weizmann's death in 1952 by the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency Executive and incorporated as a separate institution in 1955. The primary objective of Yad Weizmann was to promote the "Weizmann heritage" in humanitarian, cultural and aesthetic terms. To this end, the memorial foundation has, among other programs, sponsored lectures in the sciences and humanities by leading world scholars and savants, and organized a variety of events. The foundation is responsible for maintaining the Weizmann Archives and for publishing more than 25,000 of Weizmann's papers and letters in 25 volumes. Its permanent exhibition reflects Weizmann's lifelong activities as scientist and statesman. Yad Weizmann conducts tours of the historic home of Dr. Weizmann designed in the 1930s by architect Erich Mendelsohn.


R. Calder, The Hand of Life: The Story of Weizmann Institute (1959); J. Wechsberg, A Walk through the Garden of Science: A Profile of the Weizmann Institute (1967); L. Shultz (ed.), Gateway to Science: The Weizmann Institute at Twenty-Five (1970); The Annual Report; Scientific Activities (annual). website: www.weizmann.ac.

[Meyer Wolf Weisgal]