Ephraim Katzir

Ephraim Katzir

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Ephraim Katzir (16 May 1916 – 30 May 2009) was an Israeli biophysicist
Biophysics
Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that uses the methods of physical science to study biological systems. Studies included under the branches of biophysics span all levels of biological organization, from the molecular scale to whole organisms and ecosystems...

 and former Israeli Labor Party politician. He was the fourth President of Israel
President of Israel
The President of the State of Israel is the head of state of Israel. The position is largely an apolitical ceremonial figurehead role, with the real executive power lying in the hands of the Prime Minister. The current president is Shimon Peres who took office on 15 July 2007...

 from 1973 until 1978.

Biography


Katzir was born Efraim Katchalski, son of Yehuda and Tzila Katchalski, in Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

, in the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

. In 1925 (several publications cite 1922), he immigrated to Mandate Palestine with his family and settled in Jerusalem. In 1932, he graduated from Gymnasia Rehavia
Gymnasia Rehavia
Gymnasia Rehavia is a high school in the Rehavia neighborhood in Jerusalem, Israel.-History:Gymnasia Rehavia was the country’s second modern high school, after Gymnasia Herzliya in Tel Aviv. The school was first established in Jerusalem's Bukharan Quarter in 1909. The building on Keren Kayemet...

. Like his brother, Aharon
Aharon Katzir
Aharon Katzir was an Israeli pioneer in the study of the electrochemistry of biopolymers. He was killed in the Lod Airport Massacre in 1972.-Biography:...

, he was interested in science.He studied botany, zoology, chemistry and bacteriology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ; ; abbreviated HUJI) is Israel's second-oldest university, after the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The Hebrew University has three campuses in Jerusalem and one in Rehovot. The world's largest Jewish studies library is located on its Edmond J...

. In 1938, he received an M.Sc, and in 1941, he received a PhD degree. In 1939, he graduated from the first Haganah officers course, and became commander of the student unit in the field forces ('Hish). He and his brother worked on development of new explosives. In May, 1948, Ephraim was appointed commander of the "Heyl Mada" (HEMED) – scientific research and development corps. His brother, Aharon Katzir
Aharon Katzir
Aharon Katzir was an Israeli pioneer in the study of the electrochemistry of biopolymers. He was killed in the Lod Airport Massacre in 1972.-Biography:...

, chairman of the Department of Polymer Research at Weizmann Institute, was murdered in the Lod Airport Massacre
Lod Airport massacre
The Lod Airport massacre was a terrorist attack that occurred on May 30, 1972, in which three members of the Japanese Red Army, on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine , killed 26 people and injured 80 others at Tel Aviv's Lod airport...

.

Katzir was married to Nina (née Gottlieb), born in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, who died in 1986. As an English teacher, Nina developed a unique method for teaching language. As the president's wife, she introduced the custom of inviting children books' authors and their young readers to the President's Residence. She established the Nurit Katzir Jerusalem Theater Center in 1978 in memory of their deceased daughter, Nurit. They had a son, Meir, and three grandchildren. Katzir died on 30 May 2009 at his home in Rehovot.

Scientific career


After continuing his studies at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 and Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, he returned to Israel and became head of the Department of Biophysics at the Weizmann Institute of Science
Weizmann Institute of Science
The Weizmann Institute of Science , known as Machon Weizmann, is a university and research institute in Rehovot, Israel. It differs from other Israeli universities in that it offers only graduate and post-graduate studies in the sciences....

 in Rehovot, an institution he helped to found. In 1966–1968, Katzir was Chief Scientist of the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

. His initial research centered on simple synthetic protein models, but he also developed a method for binding enzymes, which helped lay the groundwork for what is now called enzyme engineering
Enzyme engineering
Enzyme engineering is the application of modifying an enzyme's structure or modifying the catalytic activity of isolated enzymes to produce new metabolites, to allow new pathways for reactions to occur, or to convert from some certain compounds into others...

.

Presidency


In 1973, Golda Meir
Golda Meir
Golda Meir ; May 3, 1898 – December 8, 1978) was a teacher, kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of the State of Israel....

 contacted Katzir at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, asking him to accept the presidency. He hebraicized his family name to Katzir, which means 'harvest'.

On 10 March 1973, Katzir was elected by the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 to serve as the fourth President of Israel. He received 66 votes to 41 caste in favour of his opponent Ephraim Urbach
Ephraim Urbach
Ephraim Elimelech Urbach was a distinguished scholar of Judaism. He is best known for his landmark works on rabbinic thought, The Sages, and for research on the Tosafot...

 and he assumed office on 24 May 1973.

In November 1977, he hosted President Anwar Sadat
Anwar Sadat
Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat was the third President of Egypt, serving from 15 October 1970 until his assassination by fundamentalist army officers on 6 October 1981...

 of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 in the first ever official visit of an Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 head of state. In 1978, he declined to stand for a second term due to his wife's illness, and was succeeded by Yitzhak Navon
Yitzhak Navon
Yitzhak Navon is an Israeli politician, diplomat, and author. He served as the fifth President of Israel between 1978 and 1982 as a member of the center-left Alignment party...

. After stepping down as President, he returned to his scientific work.

Awards and commemoration

  • In 1959, Katzir was awarded the Israel Prize
    Israel Prize
    The Israel Prize is an award handed out by the State of Israel and is largely regarded as the state's highest honor. It is presented annually, on Israeli Independence Day, in a state ceremony in Jerusalem, in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Knesset chairperson, and the...

     in life sciences.
  • In 1977, he was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society
    Royal Society
    The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

    .
  • In 1985, he was awarded the Japan Prize
    Japan Prize
    is awarded to people from all parts of the world whose "original and outstanding achievements in science and technology are recognized as having advanced the frontiers of knowledge and served the cause of peace and prosperity for mankind."- Explanation :...

    .
  • In 2000, the Rashi Foundation established the Katzir Scholarship Program in honor of Katzir, one of the first members of its board of directors.
  • He is also a recipient of the Tchernichovsky Prize
    Tchernichovsky Prize
    The Tchernichovsky Prize is an Israeli prize awarded to individuals for exemplary works of translation into Hebrew. It is awarded by the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo. Although initailly awarded annually, it is now awarded every two years....

     for exemplary translation.

External links


See also

  • List of Israel Prize recipients