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  The Institute Board > Past Directors

Prof. Yuval Ne'eman (1979-1997)
Professor Yuval Ne'eman (1925-2006) was born in Tel-Aviv, a grandson of one of the city's founders. He studied mechanical and electrical engineering at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), Haifa, then worked as a hydrodynamical designer for a year. He joined the Hagana and when this organization gave birth to the Israel Defense Forces, he stayed on for 12 years, fighting Israel's 1948 War of Independence as a commander in the field and serving later as a Vice Chief of Operations at the High Command. As Colonel, Head of Defense Planning he laid the foundations of Israel's mobilization system and crystallized the strategic conception prevailing until 1967 and tested in the Six Days War. Ne'eman turned to science in 1958, studying at Imperial College in London while serving as Israel's Defense Attache in the U.K. In the early sixties new particles were being discovered and the number of different 'elementary' particles was nearing one hundred. Ne'eman identified the pattern and his 'SU(3)' classification (also known as the "Eightfold Way") has been compared with Mendeleyev's Periodic Chart of the Chemical Elements. It was experimentally validated (1964) when the Omega-Minus particle, predicted by this scheme, was observed at Brookhaven N. L. (USA). Ne'eman was also the first to suggest that particles experiencing the Strong Nuclear Force, such as protons or neutrons, are composite and are made of three fundamental "bricks" - later to be known as Quarks, when Gell-Mann (who had also later independently arrived at SU(3) though he never published it) and Zweig further developed the notion. Ne'eman contributed to important further advances in particle physics, cosmology, astrophysics, and epistemology.

Since 1977, he has developed an interest and a parallel line of work, generalizing the theory of Evolution and formulating a universal paradigm, then also applying it to various areas, especially Social Anthropology ad Evolutionary Epistemology.

Ne'eman was the founder and Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Tel-Aviv University (1965-72), President of Tel-Aviv University (1971-75), and served as Director of the Mortimer and Raymond Sackler Institute of Advanced Studies in that institution (1979-1997). In 1969 he established the School of Engineering as founding dean (in 1997-2002 he was elected President of the Israel Association of Engineers). He also founded (1968) the Center for Particle Theory at the University of Texas (Austin).

He founded the Israel Space Agency (1983) and has chaired it since. He has also served on Israel's Atomic Energy Commission (1965-84) and chaired it (1982-84) and held the position of Scientific Director in the IAEC Soreq Establishment (1961-63). Ne'eman was Israel's Chief Defense Scientist in 1974-76. He served as President of Israel's Bureau of Standards in 1972-1976 and chaired the Steering Committee to the Med-Dead Conduit Project in 1977-83. He was Israel's first Minister of Science and Development 1982-84, then again in 1990-1992, when he also served as Minister of Energy.

Ne'eman has published over three hundred and fifty scientific papers and twenty books. He is a Member of Israel's National Academy of Sciences, a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an Honorary Life-Member of the New York Academy of Sciences, a Member of the (Brussels) European Academy of Sciences, a Member of the International Academy of Astronautics, and of several other learned societies. He has been awarded the Weizmann Prize (Tel-Aviv, 1966), the Rothschild Prize (Jerusalem, 1968), the Einstein Medal (Washington, 1969), the Israel Prize (1969), the College de France Medal and the Officier's Cross of the French Order of Merit (Paris, 1972), the Wigner Medal (Istanbul-Austin, 1982), the Birla Science Award (Hyderabad, 1998), the EMET Science Prize (Jerusalem, 2003) and honorary doctorates by universities in the USA, Germany, Russia and Israel.
Prof. Saul Abarbanel (1997-2003)
Saul Abarbanel was born 1 June 1931 in Montclair, New Jersey, USA. He grew up in Tel-Aviv and served in the IDF during the War of Independence (1948-1950). He then went to the United States for his university education and received all three degrees (B.Sc, M.Sc, PhD) from MIT. The first two were in Aeronautics and Astronautics and the doctoral dissertation in Theoretical Aerodynamics. He did his post-doctoral work at the department of Applied Mathematics at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel (1960-1961). He was then appointed Assistant Professor at MIT (1961-1964). In 1964 he was appointed Associate Professor and department head of Applied Mathematics at Tel-Aviv University and in 1970 promoted to Professor. He also served in succession as the Dean of Science, Vice Rector and Rector of Tel-Aviv University (1966 -1980). He was consultant to NASA and was Visiting Professor at various times at MIT, Brown and University of California, Berkeley. He served as Chairman of the National Research Council of Israel (1986-1993). He was awarded in 1992 the Scientific Achievement Award by NASA and is currently the IBM Distinguished Visiting Research Professor at Brown University. He was the Director of the Sackler Institute of Advanced Studies from 1997 to 2003.
Prof. Abraham Nitzan (2003-2015)
braham Nitzan was born in Israel in 1944. He received his B.Sc. in chemistry in 1964, his M.Sc. in physical chemistry in 1966 (with Prof. Gidon Czapski), both from the Hebrew University, and his Ph.D. in 1972 (with Prof. Joshua Jortner) from Tel Aviv University. He had a postdoctoral Fulbright Fellowship at MIT, was a research associate at the University of Chicago, and taught at Northwestern University before joining the Faculty at Tel Aviv University. At TAU he has been a Professor of Chemistry since 1982 and also served as Chairman of the School of Chemistry in 1984-7, and Dean of the Faculty of Science in 1995-8. Nitzan's research is in the field of chemical dynamics and transport phenomena in condensed phases. He was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society (1993) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2003) and Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006) and has received the Kolthof Prize (1995), The Humboldt Award (1995) and the Israel Chemical Society Prize (2002). He was the Director of the Sackler Institute of Advanced Studies from 2003 to 2015.