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Chaim Weizmann
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Chaim Weizmann

Chaim Weizmann (November 27, 1874 - November 9, 1952) chemist, statesman, President of the World Zionist Organization, first President of Israel (elected May 16, 1948, served 1949 - 1952) and founder of a research institute in Israel which eventually became the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Weizmann was born in Motol, Russia and graduated in chemistry from the University of Freiburg in 1899. He lectured in chemistry at the University of Geneva (1901-3) and later taught at the University of Manchester. He became a British subject in 1910, and in World War I he was (1916-19) director of the British admiralty laboratories. He became famous when he developed a synthetic acetone to be used in the manufacture of TNT explosives critical to the Allied war effort. In 1917 he worked with Lord Balfour on the Balfour Declaration. A founder of so-called synthetic Zionism, Weizmann supported grass-roots colonization efforts as well as higher-level diplomatic activity.

On January 3, 1919, he and King Faisal I of Iraq signed the Faisal Weizmann Agreement establishing the relations between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. After 1920 he assumed leadership in the world Zionist movement, serving twice (1920-31, 1935-46) as president of the World Zionist Organization. In 1921 Weizmann went along with the known Jewish physicist Albert Einstein for a fund-raiser to establish a Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

In World War II he was (1939-45) honorary adviser to the British ministry of supply and did research on synthetic rubber and high-octane gasoline. Allied sources of rubber were largely lost to the Japanese during World War II. He met with United States President Harry Truman and worked to obtain the support of the United States for the establishment of the State of Israel. When Israel was founded (1948), Weizmann became the first president. At Rehovoth, where he lived, Weizmann founded a research institute (now the Weizmann Institute of Science). He wrote many papers for scientific journals. Ezer Weizman is his nephew.

He was succeeded by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (1952 - 1963).

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