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Ephraim Katzir, Israel's fourth president and an internationally recognized biophysicist died Saturday at his home in Rehovot, several weeks after his 93rd birthday.

Katzir's 1973-1978 tenure spanned two seminal events in Israeli history: The 1973 Yom Kippur War and the historic visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem in 1977.

He left the presidency after one term to return to scientific research, declining a second term due to his wife's illness.

"Ephraim Katzir was devoted to the state of Israel in all that he did and was a scientific pioneer," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "He also contributed to Israel's security, and his integrity and modesty set an example."

Born in Kiev in 1916, Katzir immigrated at age 6 with his family to British-ruled Palestine and studied biology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, receiving his Ph.D. in 1941, according to his official biography on the Foreign Ministry Web site.

He served in the Haganah, the underground Jewish defense organization, where he helped to set up a military research and development unit that developed explosives, propellants and other munitions.

During the war that followed Israel's independence in 1948, he was appointed head of the military's science corps. He served as the Israeli military's chief scientist from 1966 to 1968, the Web site said.

Katzir was among the founders of Israel's renowned Weizmann Institute of Science and headed its biophysics department, where his work on synthetic protein models deepened understanding of the genetic code and immune responses.

Katzir was awarded the Israel Prize, the country's highest honor, in 1959 for his contribution to the natural sciences. He received the Japan Prize in 1985 for his work on immobilized enzymes used in oral antibiotics. In 1996, the former president was selected as the first Israeli to be invited to join the American Academy of Sciences.