Chemistry at Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Chemistry at Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Author: Brian Johnson and ChemistryViews.org

History of chemistry usually focuses on the development of chemical thinking and technology. The story, A Tale of Two Mounts, told by Sason Shaik, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, is different.

Already in 1902, the pamphlet “Eine Juedische Hochschule” (a Hebrew School of High Learning) was published, but it took until 1923 that the first school of chemistry in the Land of Israel was established, the Institute of Chemistry at the Hebrew University (HU). This was 25 years before the establishment of the State of Israel and was only possible because of the vision of Chaim Weizmann, a Zionist leader and later the first President of the State of Israel, to build a university in a stateless under-developed region in the outskirts of the Ottoman Empire.

The stories of HU and the Institute of Chemistry are woven into the larger story of the land under the Ottoman Empire and then the British Mandate, and the influence of the European superpowers on the region, and especially of Germany, on the culture, architecture, and technical know-how, from the days of the Templars in the 19th Century, and through the Two World Wars.

The story of chemistry at HU has many heroes: Some of them are forceful visionaries like Chaim Weizmann and Ernst David Bergmann, an organic chemist who establish the school of organic chemistry in Israel. Others are quieter voices, but no less forceful, like Ladislaus Farkas, a physical chemist who established the school of physical chemistry in Israel, or Gabriel Stein who cemented his effort. And there are many others who worked throughout the years, sometimes under impossible conditions and risky circumstances, to make the Institute of Chemistry at HU what it is.


 

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