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On February 12, the Weizmann Institute will host a ceremony at which Institute Professor Michael Sela will become the first non-German to receive the Harnack Medal, the Max Planck Society's highest award.
The medal will be presented to him by Prof. Hans F. Zacher, President of the Max Planck Society. It was named for Adolf von Harnack, the first President of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, the Max Planck Society's predecessor, and is bestowed for outstanding contributions to the advancement of science and the humanities.
First awarded in 1925 by the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, the Harnack medal has since been presented to only 25 distinguished public personalities, including eminent scientists like Max Planck and notable officials such as three presidents of the Federal Republic of Germany (see list below).
Prof. Sela, Deputy Chairman of the Weizmann Institute's Board of Governors and a former President of the Institute, is best known in the scientific community for his work in immunology -- particularly for pioneering the study of synthetic antigens, an effort that led to a better understanding of the molecular basis of immunity as well as the design of synthetic vaccines. He is co-developer of copolymer-1, a new drug that is now being used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
Prof. Sela is a member of numerous scientific bodies, among them the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the French Academy of Sciences and Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina. He is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Israel Prize, Germany's Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit and the French Legion of Honor, as well as several honorary doctorates from academic institutions throughout the world.
Several of the previous Harnack Medal recipients have had close links with the Weizmann Institute. Among these was Otto Hahn, who headed a Max Planck Society delegation to the Institute in 1959. This visit marked the start of official scientific relations between the State of Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany, six years before the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Other medal recipients linked to the Institute include Nobel laureate Fritz Haber, a personal friend of Dr. Chaim Weizmann, and Richard von Weizsacker, former President of Germany and a 1985 recipient of an honorary doctorate from the Weizmann Institute.
Over the past three and a half decades, collaboration between Weizmann Institute and German scientists has evolved and expanded, and today Germany is the Institute's most important international partner after the United States.
A special place in this partnership is occupied by the Max Planck Society's Minerva Foundation, which "through the funding of Germany's Federal Ministry for Education, Science, Research and Technology" supports six interdisciplinary research centers and numerous research projects at the Institute.
Prof. Sela is the incumbent of the W. Garfield Weston Chair of Immunology at the Weizmann Institute.
List of Harnack Medal Recipients
1.1925 Exzellenz Adolf v. Harnack
2.1926 Prof. Dr. Fritz Haber
3.1929 Exzellenz Friedrich Schmidt-Ott
4.1932 Bankier Franz v. Mendelssohn
5.1932 Prof. Dr. Carl Correns
6.1933 Prof. Dr. Max Planck
7.1933 Dr. Gustav Krupp v. Bohlen und Halbach
8.1934 Prof. Dr. Carl Duisberg
9.1936 Dr. Albert Vogler
10.1936 Prof. Dr. Ludwig Prandtl
11.1953 Dr.-Ing. E.h. Gustav Winkler
12.1954 Prof. Dr. Otto Hahn
13.1959 Prof. Dr. Otto Hahn (in Gold)
14.1959 Bundesprasident Prof. Dr. Theodor Heuss
15.1960 Prof. Dr. Erich Kaufmann
16.1962 Pralat Prof. D. Dr. Georg Schreiber
17.1963 Prof. Dr. Otto Warburg
18.1964 Bundesprasident Dr. Heinrich Lubke
19.1965 Prof. Dr. Alfred Kuhn
20.1970 Prof. Dr.-Ing. Carl Wurster
21.1973 Prof. Dr. Adolf Butenandt
22.1974 Prof. Dr. Walther Gerlach
23.1981 Dr. Kurt Birrenbach
24.1983 Prof. Dr. Adolf Butenandt (in Gold) 1984
25.Prof. Dr. h.c. Hans L. Merkle
26.1990 Bundesprasident Dr.Richard v.Weizsacke
27.1993 Prof. Dr. Reimar Lust
The Weizmann Institute of Science is a major center of scientific research and graduate study located in Rehovot, Israel.