University of Texas
Yuval Ne’eman
May 14, 1925–April 26, 2006



Yuval Néeman

In Memoriam

Yuval Ne’eman, professor emeritus of physics, died on April 26, 2006. He was 80.

Professor Ne’eman received his BS and MS from the Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa in 1945 and 1946, respectively. He did some graduate work at the École Supérieure de Guerre in Paris and received the Diplome d’Etat Major in 1952. He received his Ph.D. in elementary particle physics from the Imperial College of Science in London in 1961.

Dr. Ne’eman joined the University of Texas faculty in 1967 and held a concurrent appointment with Tel Aviv University. He was very active at UT and founded the Center for Particle Physics. He served as president of Tel Aviv University from 1971-75.

Professor Ne’eman was a member of Israel’s Knesset, serving as the Minister of Science from 1982-84 and as Minister of Energy from 1990-92. In 1988, Israel launched its first satellite into space while he was director of the Israel Space Agency.

Dr. Ne’eman was the recipient of the Israel Prize, the Einstein Medal, and the Wigner Medal, and he published over 300 papers and 15 books. He was a Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Ne’eman married Dvora Rubinstein in Tel Aviv on June 28, 1951. They had two children: Anath and Tid-al.

University of Texas at Austin


Yuval Néeman

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 fourth 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", "Etzel" and the "Haganah". After graduation he worked as a hydrodynamical designer for a year.

He joined the Haganah 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, Ne’eman 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. Ne’eman 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 Nuclear Research Center (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. This was a project of save the Dead Sea by digging a canal linking the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean).

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 Mérite (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.
(From Israel Science and Technology webstie:



From The Daily Telegraph, May 15, 2006

Yuval Ne'eman, who died on April 26 aged 80, was the co-discoverer of quarks and led the development of Israel's nuclear and space programmes; he was also a hawkish politician and the founder of Tehiya, which broke with Likud over the Camp David talks.

Yuval Ne'eman was born on May 14, 1925 in Tel Aviv and educated at the city's Herzliya High School before going on to the Institute of Technology at Haifa.

He spent much of his childhood in Egypt, and at the age of 15 volunteered for the Hagana, the paramilitary resistance movement which fought against British forces in Palestine.

In 1946, he started work as a hydrodynamical design engineer in his family's factory, which manufactured pumps, but the next year joined the Israeli Defence Force, which replaced the Hagana.

He served in the infantry as a deputy battalion commmander, then became the operations officer for Tel Aviv and, as a lieutenant colonel in 1950, commander of the Givati brigade.

From 1952, he spent three years as Head of Defence Planning, organising the IDF as a reservist-based army and drawing up Israel's defence policy.

In 1955, Ne'eman became deputy director of the Defence Intelligence Division, before moving to London as the IDF's defence attaché in 1957.

He enrolled as a student at Imperial College under the supervision of Abdus Salam; though he had missed the beginning of the course, he caught up by photocopying a friend's notes - which struck his fellow students as tremendously extravagant.

He also impressed them by leaving seminars early to host receptions at the Israeli Embassy, and by producing crates of drink from a limousine for the faculty Christmas party.

Ne'eman's thesis, a remarkably elegant account of hadrons fitted to the SU(3) flavour symmetry model - independently coinciding with the work of Murray Gell-Mann, and now best known as the quark model - was completed in 1961, but he was unable to graduate, since it turned out he had never registered for his degree.

The Unitary Symmetry Theory of which he was co-discoverer now underpins much of modern physics, and Ne'eman expanded on the basic field which explains the compositeness of nuclear particles in The Eightfold Way, which was written with Gell-Mann, who had separately come to similar conclusions and named basic particles as "quarks" (the name was drawn from Finnegans Wake).

Ne'eman had to wait two years to qualify for his degree, during which he was supposed to be resident in London. In fact, he had already taken up a post as scientific director of the Israeli Atomic Energy Establishment, where he remained until 1963, before going on to become visiting professor in Theoretical Physics at Caltech in Pasedena.

In 1965, he returned to Tel Aviv, where he became founder-director of the School of Physics and Astronomy until 1973; from 1968, he combined this role with a post as professor of Physics and director of the Centre for Particle Theory at the University of Texas at Austin.

But although he held various academic posts, including vice-president, and later president, of Tel Aviv University and director of the Sackler Institute of Advanced Studies there, Ne'eman's time was increasingly devoted to government work.

He became an adviser to the head of military intelligence in 1973 and, from 1975, was a special adviser to the defence ministry - and also the country's chief scientist during the development of Israel's atomic capability, on which he had worked at the Nahal Soreq facility since the mid-1960s.

He appeared as a character in Frederick Forsyth's thriller, The Odessa File.

In 1981, Ne'eman joined the Knesset for Tehiya, the spin-off movement from the conservative Likud party which he had helped to found after the Camp David talks of the late 1970s, which proposed the return of the Sinai to Egypt in return for recognition of Israel as a state.

Ne'eman's hardline position (which led to several attempts on his life), did not prevent him from later setting up the ministry of science and technology, and serving under Yitzhak Shamir until October 1991 when, with Ariel Sharon and Rehavam Ze'evi, he opposed meeting the Arab–Paelstinian delegation at the Madrid Conference.

From 1983 until shortly before his death, he served as chairman of the Israeli Space Agency, devoted to research and development of Israeli rockets and satellites.

He died the day after Eros B, Israel's latest satellite, was launched into orbit on a Russian rocket. The satellite has the ability to photograph objects as small as two feet wide and may be used to supervise Iran's nuclear programme.

Yuval Ne'eman received numerous awards and honours, and published widely, producing more than 350 papers on physics and the philosophy of science, as well as dozens on defence matters.

He married, in 1951, Dvora Rubinstein, who survives him with their son and daughter.

Yuval Néeman Photo Album

Sulamith Goldhaber, of the Goldhaber gap, with Yuval Ne'eman, visiting the Goldhabers at Berkeley
(Credits: Lawrence Berkeley Lab Magnet, Vol. 8, No. 4, April 1964, p. 2)

Prof. Yuval Ne'eman at the Technion Class Reunion for all the graduates of 1944 and 1945, March 28, 2005.
He is left end of front row.
Yuval Ne’eman
Yuval Ne’eman
Prof. Yuval Ne’eman, Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Tel Aviv University, October 18, 1971.
Yuval Ne’eman
Yuval Ne’eman
Gell-Mann and Ne'eman talking about Feynman. Photo by Y. S. Kim (May 1988).


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