Monday, June 01, 2009

I found this article online and they referenced my interview on Israeli TV on Sunday.
What an online world that I'm in LA interviewed in Hebrew for Israeli radio in Israel and thanks to Google I find out it was written up in an English blog.
Thank you Rachel Neiman. You wrote very generously and kindly.

Nostalgia Sunday - Ephraim Katzir
May 31, 2009 - 10:06 PM by Rachel Neiman

Professor Ephraim Katzir, fourth President of the State of Israel, scientist and a founder of the Weizmann Institute, passed away yesterday at his home on the Institute grounds at the age of 93. Although perhaps best known abroad as Israel’s fourth president, Katzir’s contribution to the scientific development of this country was immense.
In addition to founding and heading Weizmann’s Biophysics Department, Katzir’s pioneering studies contributed to the deciphering of the genetic code, the production of synthetic antigens and the clarification of the various steps of immune responses. The understanding of polyamino acid properties led, among other things, to Weizmann scientists’ development of Copaxone, a drug manufactured today by Teva and used worldwide for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Another major success was in immobilizing enzymes. Katzir developed a method for binding enzymes, which speed up numerous chemical processes, to a variety of surfaces and molecules. The method laid the foundations for what is now called enzyme engineering, which plays an important part in the food and pharmaceutical industries. For example, it is used to produce fructose-enriched corn syrup and semi-synthetic penicillins.

Along with his scientific research, Katzir was profoundly involved in the social and educational aspects of science. He headed a governmental committee for the formulation of a national scientific policy, trained a generation of younger scientists, translated important material into Hebrew and helped to establish a popular science magazine. He served as Chief Scientist of the Israel Defense Ministry and Chairman of the Society for the Advancement of Science in Israel, the Israel Biochemical Society, the National Council for Research and Development and the Council for the Advancement of Science Education. He headed the National Biotechnology Council, was a member of the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities and of numerous other learned bodies in Israel and abroad.

In 1973, Katzir was elected fourth President of the State of Israel, a position he held until 1978. Upon completing his term of office, he returned to research at the Weizmann Institute and also devoted himself to the promotion of biotechnological research in Israel and founded the Department of Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University.

In the later years of his scientific career, Katzir turned to new areas of research. In one project, he headed a team of Weizmann scientists that won an international contest for computer modeling of proteins. In another study, he was part of an interdisciplinary Institute team that revealed an important aspect of snake venom’s effects on the body.

Katzir’s brother, Aharon was another founding member of the Weizmann Institute, who headed the Polymer Research Department until he was killed in the 1972 attack at Lod Airport (today Ben Gurion Airport) carried out by Japanese terrorists. Today, on the radio, Aharon’s grandson, LA-based filmmaker Dan Katzir, talked about his grand-uncle and his advice as a surrogate grandfather. Despite the extreme family pressure to go into the sciences (his father is pioneering laser technology engineer Dr. Abraham Katzir), Dan said that Ephraim told him to follow his heart’s desire and, whatever he chose to do, to do it well.

Upon viewing Dan Katzir’s film about Yitzhak Rabin, Out For Love, Be Back Soon, his grand-uncle said that he wept not only for Rabin, but for Sadat and all those who wanted — and died — for the cause of peace in this region

The Weizmann Institute’s press announcement today, (from which I’ve borrowed liberally), cites an Annual Review quote from Katzir: “I have had the opportunity to devote much of my life to science. Yet my participation over the years in activities outside science has taught me there is life beyond the laboratory. I have come to understand that if we hope to build a better world, we must be guided by the universal human values that emphasize the kinship of the human race: the sanctity of human life and freedom, peace between nations, honesty and truthfulness, regard for the rights of others, and love of one’s fellows.”

They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore


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