Israel Science and Technology Directory

Prof. Yuval Neeman - Physicist and Israel's first Minister of Science

We mourn the death of Prof. Yuval Neeman, one of the outstanding leaders of modern Israel.

Prof. Yuval Neeman

Prof. Yuval Neeman (יובל נאמן) (May 14, 1925 - April 26, 2006, 28 Nisan).

Brief Biography

(Portions of this biography were taken from a biography from the TAU Institute of Advanced Studies)

Professor Yuval Ne'eman was born in Tel-Aviv in 1925, a grandson of one of the city's founders. He finished high school at age 15. At age 16, he started studying mechanical and electrical engineering at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa. In his 4th year at Technion he was chosen to head the Student Union Association. He and his friends worked to bring about an agreement between the rival factions of "Lechi", "Etsel" and the "Hagana". After graduation he worked as a hydrodynamical designer for a year.

He joined the Hagana that gave birth to the Israel Defense Forces. He stayed on for 12 years, fighting during Israel's 1948 War of Independence as a commander in the field and serving later as a Vice Chief of Operations at the High Command.

In 1958 Neeman went to the Imperial College in London for his doctorate under the guidance of the physicist Abdus Salam, future Nobel Prize laureate. At the same time he served as Israel's Defense Attache in the U.K. In the early sixties new particles were being discovered and the number of different elementary particles was nearing one hundred. Ne'eman identified the pattern and his SU(3) classification (also known as the "Eightfold Way") has been compared with Mendeleyev's Periodic Chart of the Chemical Elements. It was experimentally validated (1964) when the Omega-Minus particle, predicted by this scheme, was observed at Brookhaven National Laboratory (USA). Ne'eman was also the first to suggest that particles experiencing the Strong Nuclear Force, such as protons or neutrons, are composite and are made of three fundamental "bricks" - later to be known as Quarks, when Gell-Mann (who had also later independently arrived at SU(3) though he never published it) and Zweig further developed the notion.

After 1977, he developed an interest and a parallel line of work, generalizing the theory of Evolution and formulating a universal paradigm, then also applying it to various areas, especially Social Anthropology and Evolutionary Epistemology.

Ne'eman was the founder and Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Tel-Aviv University (1965-1972). He served as President of Tel-Aviv University (1971-1975), and then as Director of the Mortimer and Raymond Sackler Institute of Advanced Studies at TAU (1979-1997). In 1969 he established the School of Engineering as founding dean. In 1997-2002 he was elected President of the Israel Association of Engineers. He also founded (1968) the Center for Particle Theory at the University of Texas (Austin).

In the late 1970s, Prof. Neeman was among the founders of the Tehiya party, opposed to the Camp David accords. He was elected to the Knesset as a Member of the Tehiya during three terms of Knesset 10, 11 and 12. He was appointed as Israel's first Minister of Science and Development 1982-1984, then again in 1990-1992, when he also served as Minister of Energy.

He founded the Israel Space Agency (1983) and chaired it. He also served on Israel's Atomic Energy Commission (1965-1984) and chaired it (1982-1984) and held the position of Scientific Director in the IAEC Soreq Establishment (1961-1963). Ne'eman was Israel's Chief Defense Scientist in 1974-1976. He served as President of Israel's Bureau of Standards in 1972-1976 and chaired the Steering Committee to the Med-Dead Conduit Project in 1977-1983.

Ne'eman published over three hundred and fifty scientific papers and twenty books. He was a Member of Israel's National Academy of Sciences, a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an Honorary Life-Member of the New York Academy of Sciences, a Member of the (Brussels) European Academy of Sciences, a Member of the International Academy of Astronautics, and of several other learned societies. He was awarded the Weizmann Prize (Tel-Aviv, 1966), the Rothschild Prize (Jerusalem, 1968), the Einstein Medal (Washington, 1969), the Israel Prize for exact sciences (1969), the College de France Medal and the Officier's Cross of the French Order of Merit (Paris, 1972), the Wigner Medal (Istanbul-Austin, 1982), the Birla Science Award (Hyderabad, 1998), the EMET Science Prize (Jerusalem, 2003) and honorary doctorates by universities in the USA, Germany, Russia and Israel.


Parents: Father Guedaliahu (b. 1900, d. 1987), eng.; Mother Zipora (nee Heshin-Sofer-BenJacob, b. 1901, d. 1980); Sister: Prof. Ruth Ben-Israel (b. 1931, Port-Said) Attorney, Law Faculty TAU (Israel prize, 2001).

Married (1951) to Dvora (b. Riga, Latvia 1927, nee Rubinstein, immigrated to Israel 1931), 2 children

Daugher Anath (b. 1952, Paris), MBA, married (1976) A.R. Neuman, MD (b. 1947, Jerusalem), two daughters: Limor (b. Jerusalem 1977), Lilach (b. Jerusalem 1980)
Son Teddy (b. 1954, Tel-Aviv) B.Sc. Eng., married(1) (1983) Ruth (nee Maor, b. 1955, Tel-Aviv, d. 1984),(2)(1987) Nava (nee Shlomy, b. 1955), 2 daughters Liora (b. 1988, Tel-Aviv), Dafna (b. 1989, Tel-Aviv)