Nuclear Museum Logo
Nuclear Museum Logo

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Shimon Peres (1923-2016) was an Israeli politician who served as the de facto head of the Israeli nuclear program during its early years.

Peres was born in Vishneva, at the time part of Poland. In 1934, his family moved to Tel Aviv in then-Palestine. As a young man, Peres helped organize the Haganah paramilitary group, which later became the Israel Defense Forces. After Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, Peres briefly served as head of the Israeli Navy. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion later named him deputy directory-general of the Ministry of Defense.

Beginning in 1955, Peres was the unofficial head of the Israeli nuclear program. “I resolved to keep my role entirely out of the public lime-light,” he explained. “That did not, however, prevent me from effectively running the entire program on behalf of Ben-Gurion, nor did it impair in any way my authority. Ben-Gurion trusted me. Professor [Ernst David] Bergmann worked with me with no reservations.” Peres was instrumental in getting key French support for the Israeli nuclear program during the 1950s, including a nuclear reactor and assistance constructing the Dimona nuclear complex. As Peres remembered, “Originality was necessary but it was not an end in itself. This outlook brought me into headlong collision with Bergmann. He believed that Israel had the potential and the ability to build its own nuclear reactors; I maintained that, if it were at all possible, we would be better to buy one abroad.”

After leaving the Ministry of Defense in 1965, Peres enjoyed a very successful political career. He was twice elected Prime Minister and also served as President and Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 1993, Peres won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Shimon Peres died on September 28, 2016 in Ramat Gan, Israel.

Shimon Peres's Timeline
1923 Aug 2nd Born in Vishneva, Poland.
19551965 De facto head of the Israeli nuclear program.
19841986 Served as Prime Minister of Israel.
1993 Won the Nobel Peace Prize.
19951996 Served as Prime Minister of Israel.
2016 Sep 28th Died in Ramat Gan, Israel.

Related Profiles

F. E. McCoy

Hanford, WA

James Chadwick

Los Alamos, NM

Sir James Chadwick (1891-1974) was an English physicist and winner of the 1935 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Emperor Hirohito


Hirohito (1901-1989), known posthumously as Emperor Shōwa, was emperor of Japan during World War II and is Japan’s longest-serving monarch in history.

Kazumi Matsui


Kazumi Matsui was elected as the mayor of Hiroshima, Japan in 2011. Matsui serves as the president of Mayors for Peace, an organization that brings together 7,700 cities across the globe with the goal of creating a world without nuclear weapons.