History of the Physics Department

Before the University was established, many young people in the area who had a first degree from various institutions, were eager to further their education.

To answer this need, an "institute for higher learning" was established. Teachers came from the various universities and also from two local institutes: The Desert Research Institute and the Nuclear Research Center. A number of physicists started teaching advanced degrees for students in different fields of engineering and natural sciences.

Dr. Hagai Shaked (now Emeritus Professor in the Department of Physics) was the first teacher and gave the first lecture at this new establishment on April 14,1964. It was a mathematics course for graduate students in biology.

Among those who came to give courses in physics, were Professors Hanoch Gutfreund and Dan Amit from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor Yakir Aharonov from Tel Aviv University took a partial position in the Department of Physics and participated in the establishment of an advanced research program.

In 1967 a regular program for higher education was established under the supervision of the Weizmann Institute of Science, and the theses advisors were a joint team from the Weizmann Institute and local faculty member.

In 1970 the Department of Physics was formally created as part of the "University of the Negev" (later renamed Ben-Gurion University of the Negev). Professor Nathan Rosen, professor of physics at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, came to temporarily fill the position of Dean of the new Faculty of Science.

Professor J. Bartouv became the first chairman of the department.

In this capacity he was responsible for the recruitment of the first full time members in the newly created department.

The first chairman of the teaching committee was the late Professor Gideon Erez. On June 27, 1972 the Department (together with the whole Faculty) was accredited to award a Bachelors degree in physics.

This was followed in 1974 by an M.Sc. and in 1978 by a Ph.D.

At the beginning, the first laboratories were housed in a hostel called “HIAS House,”which the city leased to the University. Some of the first courses were given in nearby shops which had been converted into temporary classrooms. The Department had also offices in the nearby Zohar Hotel. Additional buildings were built on the grounds of “HIAS House,”, but the housing situation became very acute.

Planning for a permanent university campus was already started in the early days. The Beer-Sheva Municipality decided on the area, situated in the northern part of the city. In 1974 the Department of Physics moved to the new campus. But there was still a shortage of space, so that the offices and laboratories were spread all over the campus. It was only in 2008 that the Department moved into its own building – the Sacta-Rashi Building for Physics.

Some Department members are also members of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research in Sede Boqer. To improve ties between this group and the rest of the Department, Professor Baruch Horowitz instituted a program whereby there would be get-togethers of the groups at Sede Boqer which would include overnight stays and social programs.

Some senior members of the Department have also taught physics for many years in the Center for Pre-Academic Studies (Mechina). Professors Yigal Horowitz, Shaul Mordechai and Shaul Goren served as coordinators of physics. The Mechina was highly successful and provided the opportunity to thousands of students to continue studies in the Faculty of Engineering Sciences.


Reminiscences of Prof. Jacob Bartouv

Reminiscences of Prof. Hagai Shaked


Department members in 1971.

First year undergraduate syllabus, 1971


Members of the Department, 1975

Prof. Hagai Shaked lecturing one of the first classes

The first Ph.D. students at the Department (from r.-l.:Michael Kaye, Ilan Zmora and Arie Duby)

One of the Department conventions in Sede Boqer, 1999.

Group photograph of the first batch of retired faculty

Prof. Yigal Horowitz teaching "mechina" students.



Classroom building in HIAS HOUSE

The "shops" where classes were held

One of our temporary office and lab buildings, the "New Campus".

The main building in the new campus, the physics offices were here

The new Sacta-Rashi Building for Physics

The Foucault pendulum in the Sacta-Rashi Building for Physics.


Vittorio Volterra

Born 1930 in Ancona, Italy. Died 1998 in Beer-Sheva.

Received his Ph.D. in 1965 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Spent his Post-doc period in Toronto, Canada and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Between 1969-1972 was Assistant Professor at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Since 1972 at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where he started as a senior lecturer and became Professor of Physics.

Between 1977 and 1980 he was Chairman of the Department of Physics

Aron Lonke

Born 9/9/1931 in Kaunas Lithuania and died in 1989 while attending a conference in Brazil.

In 1958 he came to Israel.

Got his M.Sc. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Got his Ph.D. from the Technion, Haifa in 1967.

In 1969 he became a member of the Department of Physics of the University of the Negev (later renamed Ben-Gurion University of the Negev). He was the first theoretical physicist to engage in full time teaching and research at the University.

Chaim Charach

Born January 18,1949 in Vilnus, Lithuania. Died on March 22, 1999 in Beer-Sheva.

Completed his undergraduate studies in Vilnus, and came to Israel in 1979. Continued his studies at Ben-Gurion University and obtained his M.Sc. in 1977 and his Ph.D. in 1980.

He held a Post-doc position for two years between 1980 and 1983 at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and then for a year at Ben-Gurion University. In 1983 he was appointed a lecturer at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research.

In 1995 he became Associate Professor in a joint appointment of the Department of Physics and the Blaustein Institutes.

Moshe Carmeli

Born 1933 in Baghdad, Iraq. Died 2007 in Beer-Sheva.

Received his D.Sc. in 1964 from the Technion, Haifa, under the supervision of Nathan Rosen.

Spent his Post-doc period, between 1964-1967 at Temple University and at the University of Maryland.

In 1967 he was Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland.

From 1967- 1972 he was a researcher and then Senior Researcher at the Aerospace Research Laboratory in Ohio.

In 1972 he joined the Department of Physics t at Ben-Gurion University. He became Professor in 1974. He was thus the first full Professor in the then new Department of Physics.

Between 1973 and 1977 he was Chairman of the Department of Physics.

He was a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Between 1982 and 1985 he was President of the Israel Physical Society.

Gidon Erez

Born January 3, 1929 in Ein Harod, Israel. Died 2007 in Beer-Sheva.

Received his D.Sc. in 1960 from the Technion, Haifa, under the supervision of Nathan Rosen.

Spent the year 1960/1 at Oxford University, England and then spent the year 1961/2 at the Centre d'etudes Nucléaires at Fontenay-aux-Rose, France.

In 1962 he joined the Nuclear Research Center in the Negev. Afetr 1965 he also taught courses in physics in Beer-Sheva. This was a seed from which eventually Ben- Gurion University developed. He was involved in the planning of the physics curriculum for the future Department of Physic, from the beginning. In 1969/70 he was responsible for the physics curriculum of the pre-University in Beer-Sheva. In 1983 he was appointed as a full Professor at Ben-Gurion University.

He is the recipient of The Ernst David Bergmann Prize.