Prof. Haim Garty

Dec 25, 1948 — Nov 29, 2014

Prof. Haim Garty loved to tell people that he grew up in the “backyard of the Weizmann Institute of Science.” Garty was born in Bulgaria in 1948 and came with his family to Israel in 1950, settling in Rehovot. So his childhood memories were colored by the Institute. In one recollection, “Rehovot schoolchildren played an important role in the life of the Institute. We were often called upon to greet foreign visitors. More than once, we stood on the side of the road leading to the Institute, waving little flags.”

Haim was interested in science from childhood. After completing his bachelor studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he entered the Weizmann Institute – in his words, a “wonderful place, with an aura of hallowed science” – through the front gate, receiving his masters and doctoral degrees from the Weizmann Institute in biophysics under the guidance of Prof. Roy Caplan. His postdoctoral research was conducted at Columbia University, NY, and he returned, in 1984, to the Institute as a senior scientist. He was appointed assistant professor in 1988 and full professor in 1997.

For the last 18 years, Haim had filled a number of major management roles at the Institute, including 13 years in top leadership posts in which he played a prominent role in shaping the course and character of the Institute as we know it today. In 1997, he achieved one of the more difficult feats at the Institute: the merging of two departments. He brought together the departments of Biochemistry and that of Biophysics and Membrane Research, creating the Biological Chemistry Department – today one of the largest at the Institute. In 2002, he was appointed Vice President for Technology Transfer and, in 2006, Vice President – a position he filled superbly until his tragic death. In his post as Vice President for Technology Transfer, Garty made a number of noteworthy, courageous decisions that led to substantial improvements in the Institute’s financial situation.

Prof. Haim Garty’s research made a significant contribution to the understanding of the natural processes that regulate the absorption of sodium salts in the body. His investigations demonstrated the central role of sodium channels and sodium-potassium pumps in controlling blood pressure. These studies significantly advanced our understanding of the factors that contribute to high blood pressure, and thus to many scientists’ work on developing new methods of treating and regulating blood pressure.

Prof. Daniel Zajfman, President of the Weizmann Institute said of Garty: “Haim was a wonderful person; it is still difficult for me to speak of him in the past tense. He was wise, positive, focused, and he had a very deep grasp of the Weizmann Institute – its aims and the basic values it embodies. I had the great privilege of working by his side and profiting from his sharp insight for the last eight years. Haim worked tirelessly to advance the Weizmann Institute and to provide its scientists with everything they needed to soar to new heights and realize their full potential. He had the rare ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, to focus on the main question and properly rephrase it, and then to rapidly reach the correct decision and, immediately afterward, without hesitating, to move on to the next challenge.

“The Weizmann Institute of Science has lost a dear friend, a great scientist, and an outstanding leader. Haim Garty’s imprint will continue to be seen and felt all over our campus, in every one of its research labs. His spirit and his special, sharp sense of humor – tempered by his love of his fellow man – will stay with us forever. “

Prof. Haim Garty is survived by his wife, Nira, also a Weizmann Institute alumna, and three sons, two of them Weizmann graduates.