Biography of Chaim Weizmann 

Chaim Weizmann was born in the small village of Motol (Motyli, now Motal') near Pinsk in Belarus (at that time part of the Russian Empire). After Cheder and Gymnasium, Weizmann started to study chemistry in Darmstadt at the Technischen Hochschule in 1892, and from 1894 on at the Royal Technical Hochschule in Berlin. In 1897, Weizmann moved to Fribourg in Switzerland where he received his PhD in chemistry in 1899 with summa cum laude. He then lectured in chemistry at the University of Geneva between 1901 and 1903.

He became a British subject in 1910, and, while a lecturer at Manchester, he became famous for discovering how to use bacterial fermentation to produce large quantities of relevant substances. He is considered to be the father of industrial fermentation. He used the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum (the Weizmann organism) to produce acetone. Acetone was used in the manufacture of cordite explosive propellants critical to the Allied war effort. Weizmann transferred the rights to the manufacture of acetone to the Commercial Solvents Corporation in exchange for royalties. After the Shell Crisis of 1915 during World War I, he was director of the British Admiralty laboratories from 1916 until 1919. During World War II, he was an honorary adviser to the British Ministry of Supply and did research on synthetic rubber and high-octane gasoline.

Already since 1918, Weizmann was engaged, together with Albert Einstein and Hugo Bergman in the foundation of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the president of which he became from 1932 until 1952. Living in Rechowot, he founded a research institution, which became famous as today’s Weizmann-Institute. Chaim Weizmann died on November 9th, 1952 and was buried in the garden of his house which is today part of the Weizmann-Institute.

Chaim Weizmann

Departement of Chemistry   -   Chemin du Musée 9    -   CH-1700 Fribourg   -  Phone +41 26 / 300 87 00 or +41 26 / 300 87 30   -   Fax +41 26 / 300 97 38    -