from the June 2009 issue

Ephraim Katzir is dead

Ephraim Katzir, Israel's fourth president and a biophysicist who co-founded its military's science corps, has died at the age of 93.

Katzir, who died on May 30, was elected president in 1973, assuming the largely ceremonial post four months before the outbreak of war with Egypt and Syria.

In 1977, he welcomed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for a visit to Israel that led to the first peace treaty between an Arab country and the Jewish state. At the end of his presidential term, in 1978, Katzir returned to scientific research.

In a 2001 paper in "The Non-Proliferation Review," Avner Cohen, a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland, said Katzir was among a group of scientists who pressured Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, to establish a chemical and biological weapons program.

Born in Kiev as Ephraim Katchalsky, Katzir immigrated with his parents to then British-ruled Palestine at the age of six.

Educated in Jerusalem and in the United States, he joined the Haganah, a pre-state Jewish underground, helped to establish the military's science corps and served as the armed forces' chief scientist from 1966 to 1968.

Katzir was a founder of Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science and played a pioneering role in enzyme engineering used in the food and pharmaceutical industries, according to his biography on the Foreign Ministry's website.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report June 2009

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