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The Christian B. Anfinsen Papers

[Memorial speech for Christian B. Anfinsen at Memorial Garden Dedication, Weizmann Institute] pdf (318,118 Bytes) transcript of pdf
[Memorial speech for Christian B. Anfinsen at Memorial Garden Dedication, Weizmann Institute]
This is a copy of Libby Anfinsen's talk given at the dedication of the memorial garden in her husband's honor at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovet, Israel in 1995.
Item is a photocopy.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (318,118 Bytes)
1995-11-16 (November 16, 1995)
Anfinsen, Libby
Reproduced with permission of Libby Anfinsen.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Anniversaries and Special Events
Exhibit Category:
Biographical Information
Metadata Record Letter from Libby Anfinsen to Ilana Eisen (November 21, 1995) pdf (46,884 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Box Number: 1
Folder Number: 8
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Physical Condition:
Series: Personal and Biographical, 1939-1999
SubSeries: Biographical, 1995-1999; n.d.
Folder: Memorial Garden Dedication, Weizmann Institute, November 1995
Acharon, acharon, chaviv . . . I'd like to thank the Institute for dedicating this lovely garden to my husband. It is a touching tribute to an earthy man who was at one with nature. Early in the week, there were dozens of gardeners scurrying about in the rain, and I was skeptical about its completion . . ., but here it is, in this land of miracles, and I am moved . . . as Chris would have been, with the consecration of this piece of land, on this campus . . . on the Sieff Blvd, in front of the chemistry building, the Schmidt auditorium, near the double helix sculpture . . . places he knew intimately and well. Chris himself planted many scientific and intellectual seeds here which he saw blossom throughout his 40+ year association with Weizmann, both here and abroad. He didn't know it, but he was the Cal Ripken of the Weizmann, never having missed a single SAAC Committee or Board of Governors meeting in all those years. Even last year, when he should have been recuperating his cracked ribs after a car accident, he still came here, although he was not his usual energetic self. So, why did he invest his time, talents, energies, and efforts here? He had already spent productive times in so many reputable scientific labs in the world! Why? He didn't come for the money, he didn't come because the labs were the best, or for the adventure of fun and sightseeing . . . he enjoyed that too, but there were more exotic places. He certainly didn't come because he had nothing else to do . . . his Hopkins and NIH calendars were always overscheduled with conferences and meetings . . . He came for the human element, for the people here, and because he loved the ambiance of this place, the striving for excellence. Chris was a man for all seasons; . . . he loved the non contrived informality here, and the work ethic. He identified with the rolled up sleeves, the casual no tie and jacket simplicity, the sense of mission in this developing country, the ethical and moral value system . . . a11 coupled with the serious commitment and determination to do good science. These were his values too, and that is why Weizmann became an integral part of his life.
All this week, and each year, we see dedications of fabulous scientific buildings, this year the Chemistry Building, and the Brain Research Center. I like to think that Chris laid the foundation --was a base--, for the growth and development of this campus. His contribution to the Institute cannot be measured in dollars and shekels . . . although he certainly did his share of schnorring with Marcus and Michael and alone. His contribution was in giving of his own natural resources . . . of himself, and his science --which is what this place is all about . . . and in this, he was a giant. He was the influence for the Kimmelman Building, and the Canadian projects, and you just have to look around and know the history here to appreciate his impact. The Prime Minister, Yitchak Rabin, in his letter of condolence to me wrote of Chris, "His passing means the loss of a great mind to humanity, and a great soul to the Jewish people. He will be sorely missed as a man of action, and as a supporter and friend of Israel . . . Man of vision and commitment. Israel shares your loss."
Now, if Chris was here, he'd say, okay Libby, you said thank you, now let's go to Charlie's Place for a beer! But Chris isn't here, so I want to take a few more minutes and sort of eulogize him for those of you who knew him, and for those of you who did not. Those of us who knew him had it all. Chris was a rare combination of contrasts . . . A man of great strength along with gentility, of unique Nordic charm, warmth and sensitivity, who possessed an amazingly brilliant mind. He always saw the big picture, and according to Ephraim, his genius lay in knowing what was the next important step to take. He was a man who cried at classical music concerts, but did not flinch riding his sailboat in turbulent storms of 20 foot waves. He was eloquent and articulate, but usually elected to listen analyzing quietly and calmly. Yet, he was an outspoken advocate for peace and human rights and political issues, and travelled the globe for the oppressed. He had a certain shy and naive aura that camouflaged a depth of wisdom and maturity. He was a man's man, as well as a man women adored. And he had many talents. He was an accomplished musician, a three letter athlete, an intrepid sailor, an engaging writer, a succinct editor, a sought after lecturer, a poet and an artist. And he was ruggedly handsome! And although he was a world figure, he was very modest. He was a pioneer, a devoted Zionist who excelled and thrived on challenges. It was he who cornered the US East Coast market in three hours time for skins that would be necessary for casualty grafting for the wounded soldiers during the Six Day War. It was he who initiated the collaborative flow of Weizmann scientists to the NIH, about 400 so far, many to his own lab, where an international fellowship and exchange was formed that still exists today. His ebullient, energizing, non intrusive leadership style promoted a fine atmosphere for prolific research and exemplary researchers. He understood the needs, personalities and goals of his Israeli colleagues and tried to accommodate them. He chose the Hebrew name of Chaim for himself, inspired by the memory and goals of Chaim Weizmann. His religious background is interesting in that his Jewish maternal grandmother's family disappeared when the Nazi's invaded Bergen, Norway. His parents were bible reading Lutherans, and he himself was an agnostic until the late 70's when he studied and converted to traditional Judaism. He felt the following quote from Einstein accurately expressed his beliefs. "The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer stand rapt in awe is as good as dead. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible Universe, forms my idea of God." He xeroxed and distributed this quote to many.
Chris had a flair for languages and had mastered 'elef millim', and liked the lyrical sounds of his selectively acquired Hebrew vocabulary --- 'parpar laila', 'akavish', 'halachnu', 'yamach shamo', 'lo mashmim.' He taught me that a 'nod nafua' was a self inflated egotist, and we chuckled like kids when we used our secret expression on this and other campuses for a 'see and be seen' persona.
Chris really admired the grand group of International Governors, and their strong commitment and dedication on behalf of Israel and Weizmann. There are too many to name, but people the calibre of Marcus Sieff and David Ginsburg, influenced his decision to devote his efforts here. He travelled far and wide patriotically singing the praises of Weizmann, and his humor and light touch endeared him to all audiences. He was intrigued by Meyer Weisgal, and his unusual approach in prioritizing the esthetics of the campus, sometimes over dire laboratory needs. But a mutual respect and friendship developed, which soon proved that both of their goals were attainable and essential in creating the ambiance that we now see here.
There was a reciprocal, enriching warmth that he felt with almost everyone connected to the Institute, from the smiling face of Uzi or Berman or Moshe who were always there to meet us when we stepped off the plane, to the friendly welcome of the guards at the front gate, to the Yeminite gardener who woke us at 4:30 AM for a year when we lived at Barney Shine's house on the campus.
Chris was so impressed with the diligent, kind and helpful secretaries and administrative people like Ilana, and Ricky, and Rina, and Becky and Dina and so many more who made our stay so comfortable . . . And the abounding hospitality of friends that was so very special, be it an extravaganza at the Selas, or a shabbat dinner with the Talmis or Segals, or a Jerusalem weekend with the Patchorniks, or sitting around chatting with the people on the shikkun . . . the Doestrovskys, Ruhmans, Elsons, and many others.
Chris also looked forward to the annual meetings with his SAAC colleagues, and the rapport and professionalism and respect that guided them through grueling days of concentration, review and recommendations that were vital in shaping the direction of the science. Chris had an impeccable standard of personal behavior, and treated all people from the janitor and stock clerk to the director of Institutes to Kings and Presidents with equal respect . . . As fellow crew members in his life's journey and quest to understand nature, and unravel the mysteries of the human animal.
But far and above, were the people here with whom he worked and collaborated scientifically, and with whom the closest of bonds were formed with the creative exchange of ideas . . . people like Michael, and Meir, and Sara, and Ruthie, and Israel and Ephraim, David, Arvum, Michelle and Natan, and the list is too long, and I don't want to omit anyone . . . because all of those wonderful interactions that Chris had were positive . . . and their science and personal friendships drew him back to this place, year after year, and motivated him to pour his energy and essence into this setting where tikun olam was a reality. Chris is smiling now, if he is watching us, from his special place, 'bimkom kavodo', at peace, and finally knowing 'what it's all about.' It was a wonderful association, and his immortal spirit will always live on here. Thank you again for this tribute. Libby Anfinsen Nov 16, 1995 Rehovot
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