1874 - 1952
of the State of Israel
1949 - 1952
Scientist/Statesman, was among the leaders who were instrumental in the establishment of the State of Israel.
Born in 1874 in a small town in Russia, Chaim Weizmann received a combined Jewish and secular education. He pursued scientific studies in Germany and Switzerland and became involved in Zionist activities. In 1904 he immigrated to Great Britain and began his career as a research chemist at Manchester University. During World War I he was accalimed for his discovery of a method to produce synthetic acetone and came into contact with the movers and shakers of British society, amoung them Lord Balfour and Winston Churchill.
Endowed with great personal charm and eloquence, Weizmann became spokesman of the Zionist cause in British political and intellectual circles. His efforts culminated in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The Balfour Declaration expressed the British governments sympathy for Zionist aims in Palestine. The declaration set the stage for the Mandate over Palestine which was granted to Britain by the League of Nations in 1922.
Throughout his life, Weizmann combined scientific endeavor with intensive involvement in Zionist activities. As a leader of the World Zionist Movement for many years, he was highly influential in formulating Zionist strategy and succeeded in broadening support for the Zionist movement and in mobilizing Jewish capital to further Zionist endeavors in Palestine, then under British mandate/
Meeting with President Truman in March 1948, Weizmann impressed upon the President the importance of establishing a Jewish state. This was one of the factors for the speedy recognition of the State of Israel by the United States.
One of the first acts of the Provisional Government of Israel was to appoint Weizmann as President of the Provisional Council of the State. In 1949, a month after Israel's first general elections, a special session of the Knesset elected him the first President of the State of Israel. After the swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem in February, Weizmann's home in Rehovot became the offical residence of the State of Israel.
In April 1949, President Weizmann visited the United States and was greeted by record breaking crowds. He mobilized in, what was then, an unprecedented 23 million dollars in contributions for the State of Israel and for the fledgling research facility that now bears his name, the Weizmann Institute for Science.
A man of action all his life, President Weizmann was disappointed by the mainly ceremonial roles assigned to the President. However, his personal relationships with key figures in British political circles were instrumental in the recognition of Israel by Britain -de facto in January 1949 and de jure in April 1950.
By 1950, President Weizmann had to curtail his activities due to ill health, but he continued to receive foreign dignitaries and closely follow current events. He was re-elected to a second term in Novermber, 1951 (at the time the term of President was directly linked to that of the Knesset) and was sworn in at his residence in Rehovot on November 25th.
Very ill for most of his last year of life, the first Presidentof the State of Israel, Professor Chaim Weizmann, died on November 9 1952 and was buried, according to his wish, in the garden of his house, today part of the campus of the Weizmann Institute of Science.