Igal Talmi was born in 1925 in Kiev, Ukraine. His family immigrated to Palestine later that year and settled in Kfar Yehezkel. After graduating from Gymnasia Herzliya in Tel Aviv in 1942, he joined the Palmach.
In 1947 Talmi completed his master's degree in physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writing his M.Sc. thesis under the guidance of Giulio Racah. In 1949, he wrote his doctorate at the ETH Zurich in Switzerland under Wolfgang Pauli. In 1952-1954, he was a research fellow at Princeton University, where he worked with Eugene Wigner.
Igal is Married to Chana (Kivelewitz) and has two children,Son Prof. Yoav P. Talmi, M.D. and daughter Tamar Dayan Professor of Zoology who is married to General (Aluf) Uzi Dayan.
In 1954 Talmi joined the Weizmann Institute of Science where he became Professor of Physics in 1958. Talmi was one of the founders of the Department of Nuclear Physics at the Weizmann Institute. He served as the Head of the Nuclear Physics Department (1967-1976), and the Dean of the Faculty of Physics (1970-1984). Talmi spent sabbatical years at Princeton, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale and other universities as a visiting professor.
Talmi has been a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities since 1963, and was the Chairman of the Division of Sciences in 1974 -1980. He also served on the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.
In addition to his influential papers and conference talks, Igal also produced two books thatserved as guides and companions to generations of nuclear structure theorists. The first,written with the late Amos de Shalit, was a veritable bible of shell theory and the second,some thirty years later, continued the tradition of being an exhaustive compendium of relevantresults and derivations.
Nuclear Physics research
Talmi’s main field of research is the theory of nuclear structure. The atomic nucleus is composed of a large number of protons and neutrons which move due to strong interactions between them. In spite of their complexity, nuclei exhibit some simple and regular features. Most importantly, nuclei behave as if they move independently in a common static potential well. This gives rise to the existence of shells of protons and neutrons much like the electronic shells in atoms. Nuclei whose proton and neutron shells are complete have special stability and the numbers of protons and of neutrons in them are called magic numbers. This picture of the nucleus is called the nuclear shell model to obtain the information from experimental data and use it to calculate and predict energies which have not been measured. This method has been successfully used by many nuclear physicists and has led to deeper understanding of nuclear structure. To calculate energies of nuclear states it is necessary to know the exact form of the forces which act between the nuclear constituents. These are still not sufficiently known even after many years of research. Talmi developed a method to obtain the information from experimental data and use it to calculate and predict energies which have not been measured. This method has been successfully used by many nuclear physicists and has led to deeper understanding of nuclear structure.The theory which gives a good description of these properties was developed. This description turned out to furnish the shell model basis of the elegant and successful interacting boson models.Talmi also participated in the study of explicitfermion—boson mappings required to connect the interacting-boson model with its shell-modelroots and in the introduction of the boson F-spin analog to nucleon isospin.