In Memoriam: Zeev Fraenkel
By Itzhak Tserruya
Professor Zeev Fraenkel, one of the senior scientists and pioneers of nuclear physics in Israel, died suddenly of pneumonia on 17 February 2008 in Rehovot, Israel, four days after returning from India where he attended the last Quark Matter conference.
Zeev was born on June 25, 1925 in Munich. At the age of 12 he immigrated with his family to Palestine to escape the Nazi regime. A few years later, Zeev volunteered to, and served on, the Jewish Brigade of the British Army from 1944-1946. At the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 Zeev served on the Israel Defense Forces from 1948 -1951.
Zeev obtained a B.Sc. degree in Electronic Engineering from the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, in 1948. He then moved to Columbia University of New York where he received a M.Sc. in 1951 and a D.Sc. in microwave physics in 1956. After his graduation, Zeev joined the Weizmann Institute where he started a long, rich and most fruitful career in nuclear physics. He was initially in the Isotope Department and years later, in 1967, he moved to the Nuclear Physics Department that became in 1993 the Department of Particle Physics of today.
Zeev served on many committees of the Weizmann Institute and contributed significantly to its scientific life. He was head of the Department of Nuclear Physics from 1976 to 1981 and dean of the Physics Faculty from 1984 to 1990. In this last function Zeev initiated an expansion of the faculty activities and enlarged considerably the scope of research by developing solid state physics and creating a submicron center.
Zeev became very well known for his many contributions to the experimental study of nuclear reactions, in particular of nuclear fission, and for his intranuclear cascade code that he developed for the understanding of high energy nuclear reactions. Zeev worked at many major laboratories including ANL, BNL, GSI, IPN-Orsay, LANL, LBL, MPI-Heidelberg and TRIUMF. In all these places Zeev gained the respect of his colleagues and the admiration of the younger people. His friend and colleague Chip Britt wrote: “ …to his many friends throughout the world Zeev was a highly respected scientist, a true friend and a wise councilor. … As a person he brought a mature judgment and caring attitude that established him as a mentor to some of the young people in my Los Alamos group.”
Since the sad news became known, I received dozens of statements of sympathy from his many friends and collaborators all around the world, from his present collaborators in the PHENIX experiment at RHIC and the CERES experiment at CERN-SPS, from old-timers and from former students and post-docs in my group that benefitted from the close interaction with Zeev. Here are a few excerpts from colleagues spanning five decades of friendship: Gerhart Friedlander, his friend for 50 years: “I gained great appreciation for Zeev's sterling qualities as a scientist - his excellent experimental skills, his firm grasp of the theoretical basis for whatever he was working on, his no-nonsense approach, his scrupulous work ethic, his passion for doing good science”. Barbara Jacak met Zeev first at Los Alamos in 1984 while she was a post-doc there and since then became a close friend and collaborator: “Zeev was one of the founding fathers of the study of nuclear matter, and his scientific influence was broad and deep. Zeev was a mentor, friend and inspiration to so many.” Hans Specht, a colleague for more than 30 years: “We all lost a wonderful colleague of great honesty and dedication.” Peter Jacobs, graduated at the Weizmann Institute in 1987: “He was a friend and mentor to me in my formative years as a physicist, and I have always been inspired by his dedicated and unwavering hard work.” Alexander Kozlov, graduated at the Weizmann Institute in 2007: “It is very difficult to believe that Zeev is not with us anymore. For me he always was kind, clever, full of energy and I am very proud and happy that I met him and had a chance to work with him.”
Zeev formally retired at the age of 65 but this only meant that he was dispensed from any administrative responsibilities or committee duties. Zeev continued working as usual, coming to his office every day, six days a week, from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Only recently he shortened his working day to 5:00 pm. Zeev enjoyed and loved physics. “He wanted to work to the end, and he did,” wrote Art Poskanzer. But it was not only physics. Zeev had an amazing knowledge. He was a true scholar with particular interest in history and archeology. Sam Aronson wrote: “Like many, I benefited from his wisdom and enjoyed talking with him about physics and archeology. I particularly remember touring around Jerusalem with Zeev and you a couple of years ago”.
I met Zeev first when I joined the Weizmann Institute in 1975. We immediately found common scientific interests and became collaborators, a collaboration that remained strong and firm all along the last 33 years. Zeev was my partner in the low-energy nuclear physics experiments that we carried out at the Weizmann Institute, the MPI of Heidelberg and the GSI, Darmstadt. He was my partner, when we joined the relativistic heavy-ion program at CERN, in the late eighties, first in the HELIOS experiment and later when we founded the CERES experiment together with the group of Hans Specht of Heidelberg. Finally Zeev was my partner when we joined the PHENIX experiment at RHIC in the late nineties. In all these endeavors Zeev was an asset to the group and always insisted on taking shifts like anyone else in the group. We will remember him not only for his many scientific contributions but also for his integrity, his modesty, his objectivity and his acute sense of criticism. I personally will always miss him as an exceptional colleague and a close friend.