May 25, 2024
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Israeli professor Arieh Warshel and fellow Jewish professors Michael Levitt (who also holds Israeli citizenship) and Martin Karplus won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Warshel, 72, is a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Michael Levitt, a South Africa-born professor, taught at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot for most of the 1980s. Vienna-born Martin Karplus fled the Nazi occupation of Austria as a child in 1938. Of the 23 chemistry Nobels awarded in the past decade, 11 of the winners were Jewish and six of them were Israelis. The trio won the award “for the development of multi-scale models for complex chemical systems,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced. They will share the $1.25 million prize between them.

In physics, Belgian-Jewish physicist François Englert and British physicist Peter Higgs will share the Nobel Prize in Physics for their famous discovery of the Higgs Boson particle.

Englert is a Holocaust survivor. During World War II and the German occupation of Belgium he concealed his Jewish identity and lived in orphanages and childrens’ homes until liberated by the U.S. Army. A Belgian theoretical physicist, Englert is professor emeritus at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) where he is member of the Service de Physique Théorique. He is also a Sackler Professor by Special Appointment in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Tel-Aviv University and a member of the Institute for Quantum Studies at Chapman University in California. He has made contributions in statistical physics, quantum field theory, cosmology, string theory and super-gravity. The Brout–Englert–Higgs–Guralnik–Hagen–Kibble mechanism is the building stone of the electroweak theory of elementary particles and laid the foundation of a unified view of the basic laws of nature.

The LA Times reports that Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel, conducted a considerable part of their research in Israel’s leading scientific institutes. But by the time they gained Nobel recognition, they had long since shifted most of their work to the U.S. despite strong family ties in Israel, because Warshel didn’t get tenure in Israel, a crucial obstacle to the continued research. Israeli academia continues to produce groundbreaking science but chronic under-budgeting of higher education and a shortage of academic positions send many researchers to work abroad.

By Gavriel Fiske, Times of Israel and combined sources

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