Creating a Top-Rated Scientific Institution in Rehovot at the Dawn of the Digital Age

  • Leo CorryEmail author
  • Raya Leviathan
Part of the SpringerBriefs in History of Science and Technology book series (BRIEFSHIST)


The story of WEIZAC is the unlikely story of how an electronic automatic computing machine was built and became operational during the early years of the State of Israel. This chapter describes two prarallel historical threads which are the heart of the story: (1) the early years of electronic computing, in the period between 1945 and 1960; (2) the establishment and early years of a leading scientific institution in Rehovot as part of the Zionist project for building a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Attention is also devoted to introducing the key protagonists of the WEIZAC project.


  1. Achuthan S, Agrawal BC, Vimal SP, Thakore SR (1992) Computer technology for higher education: the Indian experience, vol II. Ashok Kumar Mittal, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  2. Arora A, Gambardella A (2006) From underdogs to tigers: the rise and growth of the software industry in Brazil, China, India, Ireland, and Israel. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Aspray W (1985) New introduction by William Aspray. In: Proceedings of a symposium on large-scale digital calculating machinery by the Harvard Computation Laboratory (1947), vol ix. MIT and Tomash Publisher, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Aspray W (1986) International diffusion of computer technology, 1945–1955. IEEE Ann Hist Comput 8(4):351–360MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aspray W (1990) John von Neumann and the origins of modern computing. MIT Press, CambridgezbMATHGoogle Scholar
  6. Baal-Schem J (2007) The birth of a hi-tech society: first steps in electronics and computing in Israel. In: EUROCOM 2007. The International Conference on “Computer as a Tool”. IEEE, pp 2638–2640Google Scholar
  7. Ball BL, Kessel L, Pearl C (1996) The encyclopedia of Jewish life and thought. Digitalia, Jerusalem. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhostGoogle Scholar
  8. Banerjee UK (1996) Computer education in India: past, present and future. Concept Publishing CompanyGoogle Scholar
  9. Barrow-Green J, Siegmund-Schultze R (2015) The history of applied mathematics. In: Higham NJ (ed) The Princeton companion to applied mathematics. Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp 55–79Google Scholar
  10. Berenblum I (1966) Creating a scientific tradition in a new country. In: Victor E (ed) Meyer Weisgal at seventy – an antology. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Bigelow J (1980) Computer development at the Institute for Advanced Study Princeton. In: Metropolis N, Howlett J, Rota G-C (eds) A history of computing in the twentieth century. Academic Press Inc., London, pp 291–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Blachman MN (1953) A survey of automatic digital computers. Office of Naval Research, Washington D.C.Google Scholar
  13. Breznitz D (2007) Innovation and the state. Yale University Press, New HavenCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burks AW, Goldstine HH, von Neumann J (1946) Preliminary discussion of the logical design of an electronic computing instrument. Accessed 1st Jan 2019
  15. Calder R (1962) The secret of life. In: Weisgal MW, Carmichael J (eds) Chaim Weizmann: a biography by several hands. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, pp 114–125Google Scholar
  16. Campbell-Kelly M, Aspray W (eds) (2004) Computer: a history of information machine. Westview Press, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  17. Ceruzzi PE (2003) A history of modern computing. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  18. Cohen U (2016) From political rejection to scientific renewal: Weizmann and the establishment of Daniel Sieff research institute in Rehovot, 1931–1934. In: Cohen U, Chazan M (eds) Weizmann The leader of Zionism. Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History[Hebrew], Jerusalem, pp 380–383Google Scholar
  19. Cohen U, Chazan M (2016) Weizmann the leader of Zionism. Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History [Hebrew], JerusalemGoogle Scholar
  20. Comrie LJ (1946) The application of commercial calculating machines to scientific computing. Math Tables Other Aids Comput 2(16):149–159MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Corry L (2008). Fermat meets SWAC: Vandiver, the Lehmers, computers, and number theory. IEEE Ann Hist Comput 30(1):38–49MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Corry L (2017). Turing’s pre-war analog computers: the fatherhood of the modern computer revisited. Commun ACM 60(8):50–58Google Scholar
  23. Corry L, Schappacher N (2010) Zionist internationalism through number theory: Edmund Landau at the opening of the Hebrew University in 1925. Sci Context 23(4):427–471MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Cortada JW (2013) How new technologies spread: lessons from computing technologies. Technol Cult 5(12):229–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Courant R (1956) Methods of applied mathematics. In: Shamos MH, Murphy GM (eds) Recent advances in science, physics and applied mathematics. Science Editions, New York, pp 1–14Google Scholar
  26. Croarken M (2003) Table making by committee: British table makers 1371–1965. In: Campbell-Kelly R, Croarken M, Robson E (eds) The history of mathematical tables: from Sumer to spreadsheets. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 235–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Deichmann U, Travis AS (2004) A German influence on science in mandate Palestine and Israel: chemistry and biochemistry. Isr Stud 9(2):34–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dyson G (2012) Turing’s cathedral. The origin of the digital computer. Pantheon Books, New YorkzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  29. Estrin G (1952) A description of the electronic computer at the institute for advanced studies. In: Proceedings of the 1952 ACM national meeting (Toronto). ACM, New York, pp 95–109Google Scholar
  30. Fischer L (1994) Chaim Weizmann: the first president’s selected documents. Government Printer [Hebrew], JerusalemGoogle Scholar
  31. Freeman G (2004) Biographical memoires V.85. National Academies Press. Accessed 2 Feb 2010
  32. Godfrey MD, Hendry DF (1993) The computer as von Neumann planned it. IEEE Ann Hist Comput 15(1):11–21MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Golani M, Reinharz J (2019) The founding father. Chaim Weizmann. A biography (1922–1952). Magnes Press [Hebrew; Forthcoming.], JerusalemGoogle Scholar
  34. Goren AA (1997) Juda L. Magnes and the early years of the university. In: Katz S, Heyd M (eds) The history of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Origins and beginings. The Hebrew University Magness Press, Jerusalem, pp 363–387Google Scholar
  35. Grier DA (2013) When computers were human. Princeton University Press, PrincetonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Haigh T (2016) ENIAC in action: making and remaking the modern computer, Kindle edn. History of computing. MIT Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Haigh T, Priestley M, Rope C (2014) Reconsidering the stored-program concept. IEEE Ann Hist Comput 36(1):4–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Harper KC (2008) Weather by the numbers. The genesis of modern meteorology. MIT Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hartree D, Newman M, Wilkes M, Williams F, Wilkinson J, Booth A (1948) A discussion on computing machines. Proc R Soc Lond Ser A Math Phys Sci 195(1042):265–287Google Scholar
  40. Irvine MM (2001) Early digital computers at Bell Telephone Laboratories. IEEE Ann Hist Comput 23(3):22–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Jensen WB, Fenichel H, Orchin M (2011) Scientist in the service of Israel: the life and times of Ernst David Bergmann (1903–1975). Hebrew University Magnes PressGoogle Scholar
  42. Katz S (2004) Berlin Roots-Zionist incarnation: the ethos of pure mathematics and the beginnings of the Einstein Institute of Mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Sci Context 17(1–2):199–234MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Katz S, Heyd M (1997) History of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, origins and beginings. The Hebrew University Magnes Press, JerusalemGoogle Scholar
  44. Keidar A (1976) Brit Shalom: the early period (1925–1928). In: Bauer Y et al (eds) Studies in the history of Zionism. Hasifirya Hatzionit, [Hebrew], Jerusalem, pp 224–283Google Scholar
  45. Kirsh N, Katzir S (2016) Between chemistry and politics: Weizmann’s scientific activity during the 1930’s and 1940’s. In: Cohen U, Chazan M (eds) Weizmann the leader of Zionism. Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History [Hebrew], Jerusalem, pp 413–440Google Scholar
  46. Kolatt I (1997) The idea of the Hebrew University in the Jewish national movement. In: Katz S, Heyd M (eds) The history of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Hebrew University Magness Press, Jerusalem, pp 3–74Google Scholar
  47. Kotzin DP (2010) Judah L. Magnes, An American Jewish nonconformist. Syracuse University Press, SyracuseGoogle Scholar
  48. Mahoney MS, Haigh T (2011) Histories of computing. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  49. Parzen H (1970) The Magnes-Weizmann-Einstein controversy. Jewish Soc Stud 32(3):187–213Google Scholar
  50. Pekeris CL (1966) Greetings. In: Proceedings of the National Conference on Data Processing. IPA—Information Processing Association of Israel, Jerusalem, pp 12–13Google Scholar
  51. Priestley M (2011) A science of operations: machines, logic and the invention of programming. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Prokhorov SP (1999) Computers in Russia: science, education, and industry. IEEE Ann Hist Comput 21(3):4–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pyenson L (1983) Neohumanism and the persistence of pure mathematics in Wilhelmian Germany. American Philosophical SocietyGoogle Scholar
  54. Rao P (2008) TIFRAC, India`s first computer—a retrospective. Resonance 13(5):420–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Reinharz J (1993) Chaim Weizmann: the making of a statesman, vol 2. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  56. Reinharz J (1997) The speech of Dr. Weizmann: commentary. In: The history of the Hebrew University: origins and beginings. Hebrew University Magness Press, Jerusalem, pp 323–326Google Scholar
  57. Rose N (2015 [1987]) Chaim Weizmann: a biography, Kindle edn. Endeavour Press. (First edn. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987.)Google Scholar
  58. Rosenkranz Z (2011) Einstein before Israel: Zionist icon or iconoclast?. Princeton University Press, PrincetonzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  59. Samuel R (1970) A Brief history of the institute. In: Shultz L (ed) Gateway to science: the Weizmann Institute at twenty-five. Weizmann Institute, RehovotGoogle Scholar
  60. Sean O (1997) The birth of a Celtic tiger. Commun ACM 40(3):11–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sieff I (1970) The memories of Israel Sieff. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  62. Tidhar D (1959) Encyclopedia of the founders and builders of Israel, vol 10. [Hebrew]Google Scholar
  63. Tinn H (2010) Cold war politics: Taiwanese computing in the 1950s and 1960s. IEEE Ann Hist Comput 32(1):92MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. von Neumann, J (1945) First draft of a report on the EDVAC. University of Pennsylvania, Moore School of electrical Engineering. Reprinted in IEEE Ann Hist Comput 15(1):27–65 (1993)Google Scholar
  65. Wagner S (2015) The Zionist movement in search of grand strategy. J Mil Strat Stud 16(1):61–89Google Scholar
  66. Weisgal MW (1971) So far: an autobiography. Transaction Publishers, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  67. Weizmann C (1936) The connection between Thora and action, speech at the party of the friends of the Hebrew University at Tel Aviv, 19.2 1936. In: Chaim Weizmann on the Hebrew University. Haivry [Hebrew], Jerusalem, pp 36–37Google Scholar
  68. Weizmann C (2013) Trial and error: the autobiography of Chaim Weizmann, vol 2, Kindle edn, (1918–1948). Plunkett Lake PressGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of HumanitiesTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  2. 2.Cohn Institute for History and Philosophy of Science Tel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

Personalised recommendations