JERUSALEM, April 26, 2006 -- World-renowned nuclear physicist Yuval Ne'eman, founder of Israel's space program and a key figure in the country's nuclear efforts, died Wednesday after suffering a stroke earlier this week, according to published reports. He was 80.
Born in 1925 in Tel Aviv, he studied at The Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology; Imperial College London, Advanced School for War Studies in Paris and received his PhD from the University of London.
According to biographical information posted on the Technion's Web site, "Yuval Ne'eman's chief scientific achievement was in identifying basic principles of symmetry that are the foundation of the world of elementary particles. He showed that it is possible to explain the existence and traits of these subatomic particles with the help of a model based on group symmetry. Specifically, he showed how the proton and the neutron are part of an octet of baryons that comprise this group. Ne'eman made these discoveries at the same time as Murray Gell-Man, who called these particles quarks. Following the discovery of this particle in 1964, whose existence and characteristics were seen using the model designed by Gell-Man and Ne'eman, Gell-Man won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1969 for this model, even though Ne'eman came to the same discoveries independently and at the same time."
Ne'eman is the founder of the Circle of Physics at Tel Aviv University, and a 1969 laureate of the country's highest civilian honor, the Israel Prize. He served as president of Tel Aviv University from 1971-75 and also played a role in Israeli politics, serving as the country's science minister from 1990-92. As a member of the Israel's Nuclear Energy Commission from 1952-61, he was a pioneer in its nuclear program and scientific director of one of its nuclear reactors, according to online biographies of Ne'eman by the Technion and the Knesset, Israel's parliament.
Ne'eman established the Israel Space Agency in 1983, devoted to research and development of Israeli rockets and satellites. He died a day after Israel's Eros B satellite, designed to gather information about Iran's nuclear program, was launched into orbit on a Russian rocket.
Ne'eman is survived by his wife, two children and two grandchildren. He will be buried today in Tel Aviv, according to the Jerusalem Post. For more information, visit: www.jpost.com