KATZIR (Katchalski), EPHRAIM

KATZIR (Katchalski), EPHRAIM (1916– ), fourth president of the State of Israel (1973–78); biochemist and biophysicist. Born in Kiev, Russia, Katchalski was taken to Ereẓ Israel in 1925. He studied life sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and completed his doctorate under the supervision of Prof. Max Frankel, head of the Department of Theoretical and Macromolecular Chemistry at the University (1941–45). He joined the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel (1948), and served as head of the Department of Biophysics (1949–73). He was chief scientist of the Ministry of Defense (1966–68), and was instrumental in establishing the office of Chief Scientist in the major government ministries as well as in the promotion of high-tech industry and the establishment of the biotechnology industry in Israel. He was influential in advancing education in the country. His research dealt mainly with the synthesis and study of the physicochemical and biological properties of polyamino acids as protein models and the synthetic polyamino acids synthesized, such as polyglycine, polylysine, polyglutamic acid, and polyproline. Katchalski wrote extensively on proteins and natural products such as nucleic acids. He was a member of many national and international societies and in 1966 was the first Israeli to be elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Katchalski was a brother of aharon katzir , the polymer chemist. In the early days of the State of Israel, together with his brother and Prof E.D. Bergmann , he was among   the founders of the research, development, and production of novel weapons for the Israeli army. Upon assuming the presidency, Katchalski adopted the name Katzir, which had previously been adopted by his brother Aharon, who was murdered at Ben-Gurion Airport in 1972 by a Japanese terrorist in the service of the Palestinians. As president he hosted President sadat of Egypt during his historic 1977 visit to Jerusalem. (Bracha Rager (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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