The late Professor Peter Hillman was the founder and first director of the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem.
Professor Hillman envisioned, initiated, and established the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, and was among the first scientists in Israel to make science more easily accessible to all. Professor Hillman’s spirit and legacy have imbued the museum from its inception to the present day.
Professor Hillman was born in South Africa in 1928 and made aliyah in 1960, after having completed his doctoral studies in nuclear physics at Harvard University and interning in leading laboratories in his field. In 1964, he was appointed head of the nuclear physics department at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.
In 1967, after pivoting to a new field of specialization – neurobiology and brain studies - he was appointed professor at the Institute of Life Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a position he held until his retirement in 1998.
Professor Hillman conceived the idea of establishing a science museum in Jerusalem as early as 1980. The first stage of his vision took the form of implementing the “Seeing Eye – Science Workshop”, which ran for about ten years at the Hebrew University. The foresight, leadership and energy of Professor Hillman were directly responsible for the popularity and success of the workshop.
During that time, Professor Hillman continued to advance the concept of a large science museum based in Jerusalem, the first of its kind in Israel. Having gained the support of both the Hebrew University and the Jerusalem Foundation, Professor Hillman’s vision became reality in 1992 with the inauguration of the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem.
Professor Hillman served as the first director of the museum in a voluntary capacity for three years. He continued to serve as the museum’s scientific director after his retirement in 1995 and until his final days. He visited the museum every week, imparting his knowledge, experience, and love of science to the museum’s next generation of staff and visitors.
Professor Hillman’s unique vision continues to guide the work of the Bloomfield Science Museum – making science accessible and understandable to visitors of all ages and from all sectors of society. He published dozens of articles in Israel and abroad, imparted his love of science among learners across generations, and promoted the concept of scientific culture in Israel.
In 2019, the world marked the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. The museum’s main exhibit, “Leonardo’s Questions”, was dedicated to the memory and legacy of Professor Hillman.
Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most widely known polymaths in history, embodied the quintessential Renaissance man – a man whose endless curiosity and interests spanned different disciplines and areas of knowledge, comprising both natural sciences and the humanities. Professor Hillman, a renowned scholar in nuclear physics and neuroscience was undoubtedly a "Renaissance man” of our time. Endowed with creativity and interdisciplinary curiosity, he never stopped asking questions and inspired others to do the same.