Professor Ephraim Katzir (Katchalski), fourth President of Israel, was born on 16 May 1916 in Kiev, Ukraine.
The Katchalski family lived in the Polish city of Lodz from 1920 to 1925, before immigrating to Eretz Israel. Katzir began his education in Israel at the "Herzliya" Hebrew Gymnasium in Tel-Aviv, until the family moved to Jerusalem, where he continued his studies at the Hebrew Gymnasium in Jerusalem.
In 1932 Katzir joined the "Hagana" pre-State Jewish defense force.
Katzir began studying biology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus in 1933, earning a Master of Science degree in 1938, after which he switched to chemistry. His doctoral thesis dealt with the measurement of protein properties. in 1941 he was awarded a Ph.D.
In May 1948 Katzir was appointed commander of the IDF Science Corps, in addition to serving as Head of the Department of Biophysics at the Weizmann Institute of Science from 1949 — 1973, as well as numerous other activities and positions. He served as the Israeli security forces' first Head Scientist from 1966-1968 and was also selected as a member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 1966, the first Israeli to receive this honor.
Within the framework of his positions as Science Corps Commander and Security Forces Head Scientist, Katzir contributed greatly to the security forces and to the civilian defense industry.
Katzir's daughter Nurit died in an accident in 1965 and in 1972 his older brother, Prof. Aharon Katzir, was murdered in a terrorist attack at Israel's Lod (Ben Gurion) Airport.
In 1973 Ephraim Katzir was sworn in as the President of Israel, a position he held until May 1978, including the Yom Kippur War period. During his term he was responsible for the establishment of three governments: the last government of Golda Meir and the first governments of both Yitzhak Rabin and Menahem Begin.
President Katzir was the first Israeli president to be raised and educated in Israel from a young age and to serve in the IDF, as well as the first to host an incumbent U.S. president, Richard Nixon, and accompany an Arab head of state, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, during his visit to Jerusalem.
After concluding his term as President of Israel, Katzir divided his time between the Weizmann Institute of Science and Tel-Aviv University, where he founded the Biotechnology Center.
Nina Katzir, the former president's wife, passed away in 1986 and their daughter Irit died in 1995. Ephraim Katzir passed away on 30 May 2009 in his home at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot at the age of 93.
Prof. Katzir published many important works and was awarded various prestigious awards, including the Israel Prize in Life Sciences, along with Prof. Michael Sela, for their research on the polymers of amino acids (1959) and the prestigious Japan Prize in the field of science and technology for his study of enzymes (1985). In his speech in Japan, Katzir said, "The role of a scientist is not only to deal in science but rather to instruct society as to how to utilize these achievements for the good of mankind. That is why I chose to serve as President of my country for five years... in the hope of furthering the development of science and technology and their use in developing a country that was desolate for hundreds of years".
Israel State Archives