The Weizmann Institute of Science
The Weizmann Institute of Science, one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research centers, is located in Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv on Israel’s coastal plain. Today, around 2500 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, Ph.D. and M.Sc. students, and scientific, technical and administrative staff work at the Institute, where lush lawns and sub-tropical gardens serve as a backdrop to the cutting-edge research performed in its labs. In addition, visiting scientists and their families – over 500 from 35 countries in 2010 – and numerous participants in international scientific conferences and symposia are regularly hosted at the Institute, which also offers a wide range of cultural and educational activities to the public at large.
When the Institute was conceived in 1933, the embattled Jewish population of Palestine numbered 400,000 and Rehovot was a tiny agricultural community surrounded by orange groves. In this milieu, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who would later become the first President of the State of Israel, envisioned the establishment of a world-class scientific research center. Though resources were extremely scarce, Dr. Weizmann, a successful chemist and tireless statesman for the Zionist cause, believed such an institute was crucial to securing the future of a Jewish state, both economically and politically.
Fortunately, there were others who shared his dream. In 1934, his friends Israel and Rebecca Sieff established the Daniel Sieff Research Institute in memory of their son. Dr. Weizmann had his lab in the Daniel Sieff Institute, alongside those of 10 other full-time researchers in organic chemistry and biochemistry.
Throughout WWII and Israel’s War of Independence, Institute scientists were deeply involved in the war efforts, yet under Dr. Weizmann’s direction, the Institute continued to grow. The end of WWII and the founding of the new Jewish state brought an influx of new scientific talent, and with it a new determination to make Israel a center of scientific excellence. By the time it was formally dedicated in 1949, shortly after Israel’s declaration of independence, the Weizmann Institute housed 60 labs in nine fields of research, including organic, inorganic and bio- chemistry, optics and electronics, bacteriology and biophysics, polymer and isotope research, and applied mathematics. The Wolfson Institute of Experimental Biology was under construction and the first residential quarters were nearing completion.
The Feinberg Graduate School was established in 1958, and the first PhD was conferred there in 1964. About 1000 M.Sc. and Ph.D. students are enrolled each year in studies covering the Institute’s 18 departments, which are grouped into five faculties: Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics and Computer Science. To meet the challenges of modern research, a number of multidisciplinary centers have been created to allow scientists from completely different fields to work together in developing new approaches to everything from creating new diagnostic tools to revealing the mechanics of living cells to artificial intelligence. In keeping with Dr. Weizmann’s vision of Israel as a scientific world leader, the Institute continues to invest resources in ensuring the future of science: through the Science Teaching Department, established in 1968 and the Davidson Institute of Science Education, founded in 2001.
In 1959, the Yeda Research and Development Co. was founded to function as the commercial arm of the Weizmann Institute. The first company of its kind in Israel, Yeda initiates and promotes the transfer of innovations stemming from the research of Weizmann Institute scientists to the global marketplace. The Weizmann Institute was also a key player in the establishment of the Kiryat Weizmann Industrial Park, a 40 acre site housing over 60 hi-tech companies, many based on Institute discoveries, ranging from aircraft instruments to bioengineered drugs.
More than 70 years since the first labs were erected in the midst of bucolic orange groves, and over 60 since its official dedication, the Weizmann Institute, today more than ever, is at the forefront of global science.