Chaim Weizmann


Weizmann began his scientific career as an organic chemist.  He completed his doctoral thesis with the highest honors at Fribourg University in Switzerland.  This rare distinction enabled him to obtain a research post at Geneva University.  In 1904, he moved to Manchester University, where he became a popular lecturer and an original researcher.  Weizmann was one of the fathers of biotechnology.  He was the first scientist to develop a fermentation process from a laboratory process and succeeded in converting it to an industrial process.  This was the first biotechnological process that made use of starch and bacteria.  Dr. Weizmann was asked to run the Admiralty Laboratories in London. 

His areas of research were many and various:  making the acetone that the British needed in World War I as a propellant for shells and bullets; vegetarian alternatives to meat; biological fuel, and many more.  Over two hundred and twenty patents are registered in his name. 
In 1934, Dr. Weizmann set up the research institution named after Daniel Sieff in Rechovot.  In 1949, its name was changed to the Weizmann Institute of Science.  Chaim Weizmann was its first President.  The Scientific Manager was the chemist Ernest David Bergman.


Chaim Weizmann was a scientist and a diplomat, the leader of the Zionist Movement for a whole generation, and the first President of the State of Israel.  Weizmann was born in 1874 in Motol in White Russia (Belarus).  He studied Chemistry in Germany, and in 1904 was given a post in Manchester University.  In 1906, Weizmann married Vera Chatzman and the couple had two sons:  Benjamin (1907) and Michael (1916). 

Weizmann was considered a master of negotiations, and as the person who persuaded the British Empire to issue the Balfour Declaration shortly before the British conquered the Land of Israel in November 1917.  This document, which states that "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people", marks a turning point in Jewish history, and immediately made Weizmann the person most identified with the Zionist movement.  Weizmann achieved a significant breakthrough in organic chemistry, and some connect his scientific achievements with his political ones.   

He established leading institutions in the field of higher education and research in Israel (The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Sieff Institute in Rechovot, now called the Weizmann Institute of Science), based on his perception of Zionism as the fulfillment of political and intellectual independence.  Weizmann saw scientific activity as noble in itself, but also as having economic potential in the building of a modern economy.   

He sought to establish friendly relations between the Zionists and the Arab nationalists, and for this purpose met Emir Feisal in 1918.   

During World War II he recruited the Jewish hinterland in the Land of Israel on behalf of the British war effort against Germany, and fought to set up the Jewish Brigade.  He was active in founding the institutions of a democratic regime in the Zionist Movement and making the State of Israel an integral part of the international community.    

When the independent State of Israel was declared, Weizmann was appointed the President of the Provisional State Council.  In February 1949, when the first Knesset was convened, Weizmann was elected the first President of the State of Israel.  He served in this position, to which he was elected a second time in 1951, until his death in November 1952.

Miracles do happen, but you have to work hard for them


  • "Difficult things take a long time; the impossible takes a little longer..." 
  • We must give up all our hopes in the science of Israel. It is a small country and its treasures are scarce, we can only make something real out of it if we base it on the foundations of science and the pillars of technique, such as Switzerland. 
    From “Weizmann Small Talks”, 1963 
  • All I care about now is the problem of youth education in the country! I am very worried about this! The future of Hebrew youth does not allow me to sleep at night. I'm not sure they have mentors and guides. In what tradition do they live? According to what life patterns they live? When I was young I walked between two pillars of fire: on the one hand Rabbi Reines, and on the other Dr. Pinsker. Two giants, two burning giants! And I, who walked among them, was almost burned. 
    From “Weizmann Small Talks”, 1963
  • On this solemn day I would say this to all my brethren: on there things depands the future of Israel – on brotherly love, on hard work and on peace near and far. 
    Independence Day Message, 1952 
  • Perhaps I have borne too heavy a burden ans am now paying the unavoidable penalty. Perhaps it is being borne upon me that I have neglected my own small family for the sake of the larger one which I have been trying to serve so faitfully. 
    Chaim to Vera, Novemebr 8, 1937 
  • "A state cannot be created by decree but by the forces of a people and in the course of generations. Even if all the governments of the world gave us a country it would only be a gift of words. But if the Jewish people will go and build Palestine, the Jewish State will become a reality – a fact." 
    Jerusalem, January 30, 1921 
  • The walls of Jericho fell to the sound of shouts and of protesting. I never heard of any walls being raised by such means. 
    Address to the 17th Zionist Congress, July 1, 1931 
  • If there is any other way of building a house save brick by brick, I do not know it. 
    Address to the 17th Zionist Congress, July 1, 1931 
  • Almost six million Jews… are doomed to be pent up in places where they are not wanted, and for whom the world is divided into places where they cannot live, and places into which they cannot enter. 
    Testimony before Royal Commission, November 25, 1936 
  • "Miracles do happen, but you have to work hard for them" 
    Boston, July 11, 1941 
  • All my life I have labored to make science and research the basis of national endeavor, but I have alays known full well that there are values higher than science. The only values that offer healing for the ills of humanity are the supreme values of justice and righteousness, peace and love. 
    Opening ceremony of the first Knesst, February 14, 1949 
  • This man, who called me demagogue, should know that every farm-house and every stable in Nahalal and every building down to the tiniest workshop in Tel Aviv or Haifa contains a drop of my life’s blood. 
    22nd Zionist Congress, Basel, December 16, 1946 
  • I believe that science may be the surest harbinger of peace. 
    The cornerstone laying ceremony for the Weizmann Institute of Science, June 3, 1946 
  • When the day comes for the building and consruction of Palestine to begin, one of our most important tasks will be to set our account right with the Arabs and the Armenians. It cannot be otherwise… there is enough air and land and water in Palestine for everybody to live. 
    Speech at public meeting, Manchester, December 9, 1917 
  • Today’s event – the dedication of the institute – represent the fulfillment of a vision, the translation of a dream into reality, it embodies the boundless devotion, and the unremitting toil, labour and application of a good and loyal workers to one single purpose.  
    Address of President Weizmann at the opening ceremony of the Weizmann Institute, 02.11.1949 
  • To me Zionism was something organic, which had to grow like a plant, had to be watched, watered and nursed, if it was to reach maturity. I did not believe that things could be done in a hurry. The Russian Zionists had as their slogan a saying of the Jewish sages: “That which the intelligence cannot do, time will do”.
    Chaim Weizmann, “Trial and Error” 
  • Side by side with scientific research, the humanities will occupy a distinguished place. Ancient Jewish learning, the accumulated half-hidden treasures of our ancient philosophical, religious and juridical literature, are to be brought to light again, and freed from the dust of ages. They will be incorporated in the new life now about to develop in this country, and so our past will be linked up with the present. 
    Weizmann's speech at the laying of the cornerstone for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, July 24, 1918 
  • We have a mighty weapon which we must utilise with ingenuity and skill, with every means available to us. Science is that weapon, our vessel of strength and our source of defense. 
    Opening ceremony of Weizmann Institute of Science, November 2, 1949 
  • We live in a pioneering country. We are pioneering in the wilderness, in agriculture, and in industry. But here in Rehovoth we are also engaged in a peculiar kind of pioneer work- we are pioneering in science. 
    Opening ceremony of Weizmann Institute of Science, November 2, 1949 
  • The state is merely a vessel into which the content still have to be poured… the first element in such contents, and in my opinion the very lifeblood of a stable society, is justice. 
    Chaim Weizmann, “Trial and Error”