Israeli Scientists Awarded Nobel Prize

Professors Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in ceremony in Stockholm.

Elad Benari ,

Prof. Arieh Warshel receives his Nobel Prize
Prof. Arieh Warshel receives his Nobel Prize

Two Israeli-American chemists were officially awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry on Tuesday.

Professors Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt were given the prestigious award in a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden.

The two, along with Martin Karplus, won the award “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.” Each of the three received a cash prize of just over $1 million.

Levitt, who was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1947, received his BSc from King’s College, London, and his PhD in computational biology from the University of Cambridge. He was a Royal Society Exchange Fellow at the Weizmann Institute in 1967-1968. Levitt immigrated to Israel in 1979, and was a professor of chemical physics at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot from 1980 to 1987.

Warshel was born in 1940 in Kibbutz Sde Nahum in the Beit Shean Valley. He studied at the Technion in Haifa, where he got a BSc degree in Chemistry in 1966. Warshel earned MSc and PhD degrees in Chemical Physics (in 1967 and 1969) at the Weizmann Institute. He then did postdoctoral work at Harvard University before returning to the Weizmann Institute in the 1970s. He joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 1976.

Levitt revealed after his victory was announced that he left Israel in the 1980s because the Weizmann Institute did not have the funds to support his research. Warshel, too, left Israel over his feeling that he could not make progress in his research in Israel. The fact that both winners left Israel raised the issue of “brain drain” among Israeli scientists.

Communications and Home Front Protection Minister Gilad Erdan participated in a reception for the Nobel Prize winners held at the city's Jewish community center on Monday, and was also in attendance for Tuesday's ceremony.

"I am excited and proud to stand here as an Israeli citizen and as a minister of the Israeli government and to once again see Israeli researchers winning the most prestigious prize for their accomplishments and discoveries for the human race," Erdan told the two on Monday.

"Your accomplishment brings to light the power, ability and excellence that lie in the world of Israeli scientists and Israeli research institutions, and in the Weizmann Institute, which was a significant place for you in your research endeavors," he added.