The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

Founded in 1959

The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities was established on 27 December 1959. To put this into context we give a very brief overview of the setting up of the State of Israel.

The State of Israel was founded in 1948 but prior to this the British Mandate of Palestine had existed from 1917 when the British Prime Minister Lloyd George declared that:-
... [the British Government] views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.
On 14 May 1948 the last British troops left Palestine and the Jewish People's Council met in Tel Aviv and declared the establishment of a Jewish State to be known as the State of Israel.

Ben-Zion Dinur (1884-1973) was a born in what is now Ukraine and became a lecturer at the University of Odessa before emigrating to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1921. In 1936 he was appointed lecturer in modern Jewish history at the Hebrew University and was promoted to professor in 1948. He was elected to the first Knesset, Israel's parliament, when it was set up in 1949 and served as Minister of Education and Culture from 1951 to 1955. In this role in 1954, he led a committee of scientists who proposed setting up two independent Academies in Israel, a Natural Sciences Academy and a Humanities Academy. David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) was the first Prime Minister of the State of Israel and he reacted to the proposal of two academies by preferring a single Academy. He gave his formal support to establishing a single academy in November 1957. Although approved in principal at this stage, nevertheless, it took some time to make the necessary preparations. One of the leaders in the Preparatory Committee for the Establishment of the National Academy of Sciences and Humanities, set up by Government resolution dated 9 November 1958, was Martin Buber (1878-1965) [4]:-
Martin Buber is recognised as one of the outstanding existentialist philosophers of the 20th century. His thought focuses on dialogue and community and this alone identifies him as a significant thinker for educators. Buber was himself engaged in adult education, first in Germany under the Nazis and later in Palestine and Israel. Following his removal by the Nazis from the Chair of Philosophy of Religion at the University of Frankfurt, he became the Director of Jewish adult education programmes, until his final departure for Palestine in 1938, when he took up the Chair of Social Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Martin Buber announced the establishment of the Academy on 27 December 1959. Members of the Preparatory Committee for the Establishment of the National Academy of Sciences and Humanities automatically became members of the Academy and further members were elected by the Academy at a General Meeting. Although this was a single Academy, it retained some of the structure of the original proposal by Ben-Zion Dinur in 1954 in that it had a Humanities Section and a Science Section, each Section electing a Chairperson of the Section. The President of the Academy is appointed by the President of the State of Israel, on the recommendation of the Academy, from among the members resident in Israel. The President of the Academy serves for three years. The first meeting of the Academy's General Assembly, chaired by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, elected Martin Buber as the first President of the Academy [1]:-
Professor Aharon Katzir and Professor Gershom Scholem, who were to become the Academy's second and third Presidents, worked with the government's Ministerial Committee on Legislation to draft a bill to provide the necessary legal framework for the Israel Academy's activities. Israel's parliament, the Knesset, approved the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities Law in June 1961.
This law makes the seat of the Academy in Jerusalem and gives the Academy the following aims [3]:-

The objects and functions of the Academy are:
  1. to enlist as its members distinguished scholars and scientists resident in Israel;

  2. to cultivate and promote scholarly and scientific endeavour;

  3. to advise the Government on activities relating to research and scientific planning of national significance;

  4. to maintain contact with parallel bodies abroad;

  5. in coordination with institutions of the State, to ensure the representation of Israel scholarship and science at international institutions and conferences;

  6. to publish writings calculated to promote scholarship and science;

  7. to engage in any other activity calculated to serve the aforesaid objects.
Two mathematicians were founder members of the Academy, becoming members in 1959. These were Aryeh Dvoretzky and Markus Reiner. Dvoretzky was elected president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 1974. Markus Reiner (1886-1976) [5]:-
... was born 5 January 1886 in Czernowitz, Austria-Hungary. He was awarded the ingenieur degree from the Technische Hochschule in Vienna in 1909 and a Doctor of Technology degree just before World War I. Following service as a lieutenant in the Austrian Army, he immigrated to Palestine in 1922. For 25 years, he was employed by the Department of Public Works in Jerusalem, which was then under British Mandate government. ... After the founding of the State of Israel he became a professor at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) in Haifa.
Reiner was awarded the Israel Prize in Exact Science in 1958. The only mathematician elected in 1960, the first year of the Academy's existence, was Abraham Fraenkel.

For two lists, one of deceased mathematicians who were members of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the second of mathematicians who are currently members, see THIS LINK.

Mathematicians are, of course, members of the Science Division, so we should quote from [6] regarding the work of that Division:-
The Science Division promotes basic research on various topics at the national level by establishing advisory committees in particular fields and by assembling local and international committees of experts to assess certain areas of research and Israel's standing therein and to recommend what steps, if any, should be taken to further strengthen them. Among the active committees are those reviewing Israel's nuclear physics program, various life science topics, molecular medicine efforts, and one responsible for the publication of a series of volumes describing Israeli flora and fauna. Division activities also include arranging lectures by top-ranking scientists, such as the prestigious annual Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture, and supporting external conferences in which the Academy is involved. One of the Sciences Division's major accomplishments in recent years was securing full Israeli membership in the European Particle Laboratory (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Finally let us quote from the Academy's Charter some of the articles relating to its structure [3]:-
The number of members in each section shall not exceed thirty-five, provided that members over seventy-five years of age and non-resident members shall not be included in that number. So long as the number of members in either Section has not reached thirty-five, the Academy may elect every year not more than five members to that Section ... The President of the Academy shall announce the election of the new members after having received their consent; the membership of a new member shall begin on the day of receipt of his consent to serve as a member of the Academy. Non-resident members shall be elected in the [same] manner ... and, when visiting Israel, they shall be entitled to attend General Meetings of the Academy and the meetings of the Section to which they belong, but without a right to vote.

The Academy shall convene for an Annual General Meeting at the end of each academic year, and its functions shall be, as may be necessary: the election of a candidate for President, the election of the Vice-President, the election of members of the Academy, and the matters within its competence ... The sessions of the General Meeting shall be closed to the public, unless the Board resolve upon an open session; an open session shall be held at least once a year. ... Each Section shall hold at least one meeting annually, convened by the Chairperson of that Section.

Visit the society website.

References (show)

  1. Historical Background, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
  2. Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities website.
  3. Law and Charter, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
  4. W J Morgan, Martin Buber, philosopher of dialogue and resolution of conflict, British Academy Review 10 (2007), 11-14.
  5. Obituary: Marcus Reiner, Physics Today 29 (9) (1976), 70-71.
  6. Science Division, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Last Updated September 2018