Remembering Former Vice President for Research Prof. Harold Basch


Bar-Ilan University deeply mourns the passing of Prof. Harold Basch, a former Vice President for Research and longtime member of the Department of Chemistry.

Prof. Basch began his distinguished career at Bar-Ilan University in 1970, when he joined the Department of Chemistry as Associate Professor.   He became Full Professor in 1977.  During his tenure Prof. Basch held a number of important administrative positions.  He was Chairman of the Department of Chemistry from 1973-76 and served on and chaired many committees in the University Senate, including on its Executive Board.  In the late 1980s he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences.  From 2005-2011 he served as the University’s Vice President for Research.

Since his passing Prof. Basch’s colleagues within and outside the University have written extensively about him and remembered him with great fondness.

Former University President Prof. Moshe Kaveh: “Prof. Basch was a central figure at Bar-Ilan University.  In addition to his many administrative positions in the University, he headed standing academic committees and ad hoc committees in the University Senate, was a member of the Council for Higher Education, and other external academic bodies such as the National Science Foundation, and more. His voice was well heard at Senate meetings regarding the university's scientific, research and teaching advancement.

Prof. Basch’s contributions to the University were felt throughout his six-year term as Vice President for Research, in which he was a key partner in the accelerated scientific and physical development of the University, the establishment of the Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, and the School of Engineering. Prof. Basch was a member of the Steering Committee of the University, which worked for a long time on the proposal to establish the Faculty of Medicine.  The proposal received unanimous support from the Council for Higher Education (CHE) and the CHE committee which oversaw this process.  Prof. Basch also took part in shaping the image of the medical school and building up its academic faculty.  His knowledge of the fields relevant to the curricula was of great value to the development of the Faculty of Medicine. All this was done as he simultaneously worked to promote basic and applied research at the University, and he did so with great success.

Prof. Basch was appointed by me to oversee the flagship program I initiated, with the assistance of the CHE’s Planning and Budgeting Committee, to support experimental science and to bring outstanding returning Israeli scientists home from abroad. He did this with enthusiasm and dedication, and was personally involved in the selection of faculty members absorbed by our faculties, departments, centers and research institutes.  This increased the University's research output. The entire university benefited from his devoted efforts to promote experimental science with the aim of changing the diversity of our faculty, and from carrying out the mitzvah of the scientific return to Zion.  The University owes him a great deal for this.

Heshy my good friend, had a strong personality and devoted all his time to the advancement of the University in every field.  Even after his retirement he continued to assist students and young faculty members.  The University and ties with its scientific advancement were very dear to his heart. There is no doubt that his name is inscribed in the history of Bar-Ilan University as one who contributed significantly to its development and advancement,” concluded Prof. Kaveh.

Prof. Chaim Sukenik, Professor of Chemistry: “Prof. Basch was well known in the Chemistry Department and throughout the Exact Sciences Faculty as a leader and a man of action. I will always remember him as a mentor who gave me freely of his time and wisdom and as a person willing to advocate boldly on behalf of new projects and new ideas. As Vice President for Research he not only put the finishing touches on the BIU School of Engineering begun by his predecessor, but he was the principle creator of the BIU Nano Center. He was an enthusiastic partner in creating the BIU-YU Summer Science Internship Program and made that first critical investment in funding this effort so that it would have enough credibility so that others would follow suit. Bar-Ilan as a whole, and in particular its science and engineering community, owe Heshy Basch an enormous debt of gratitude.

Prof. Arlene Gordon, former Chairwoman of the Department of Chemistry: “I remember Prof. Basch as being very organized – his desk was always immaculate with all his papers in neat rows. When I headed the Chemistry Department, he was always ready with useful advice. He liked to plan years ahead and many of his plans for the Department, Faculty and University came to fruition, to everyone’s benefit.”

Prof. Dan Major, Department of Chemistry: “When I was a PhD student with Prof. Bilha Fischer, I would seek Prof. Basch’s advice quite often, as he was one of the premier computational chemists in Israel. When time came to choose a post-doc, I went to him for guidance. He said I should go into the field in multi scale modeling, which back in 2002 was one of the many up and coming fields. I followed his advice, and went to a post doc in the US in multi scale modeling. In 2013 this very field was the topic of the Nobel Prize in chemistry. It so happened that Prof. Basch was also very instrumental in bringing the all-Jewish Nobel trio, Warshel, Levitt, and Karplus to BIU to get honorary doctorates the following year. His advice is just one of many examples of how he had a special sense for what is the future in science.”

“The Israel Chemical Society and the entire community of Israeli scientists mourn the loss of a great scientist,” wrote ICS President Prof. Ehud Keinan in a letter to its members about the passing of Prof. Basch.

Prof. Basch’s additional administrative activities included Academic Head of the Holon Institute of Technology, member of scientific grants committees of the Israel Science Foundation, and much more.  He was also appointed to the National Council for Research and Development in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Prof. Basch was born in New York in 1940.  He received his BA from Yeshiva University and his MA and PhD from Columbia University. He conducted postdoctoral research at Bell Telephone Laboratories during the mid to late 1960s and was a Principal Research Scientist at Ford Motor Company in Michigan from 1968-1971. 

Prof. Basch was a pioneer in computational quantum chemistry, in developing methods and innovative applications of theoretical concepts and equations to solving problems in Chemistry.  As a graduate student at Columbia University in 1962, he recognized the potential use of the computer, whose enormous size then filled an entire building, in chemical research.  The methods and paradigms he developed are used today in modern software packages for the calculation of molecular properties.   His latest research efforts were directed towards finding appropriate molecular bridges that can serve as nano-conducting and switching elements in molecular electronics.  During his lengthy career Prof. Basch published more than 180 papers and book chapters.

Prof. Basch, of blessed memory, is survived by his wife, Julia, and their five children.