[On a memorable unscheduled trip from Foggia's airport to a meeting near Bari, Italy in 1970], we spent 12 hours travelling together in the general direction of the Gargano, and eventually to Pugnochiusso itself, using local buses, carts, delivery vans and goodness knows what else in company with local peasants, chickens, pigs and goats. We stopped off at one point for a local fair and several times for food and (mainly) wine. Everywhere people were won over by my Zorba-like companion with his exhuberant and exotic use of language. By the time we arrived we were friends-for life.
Thereafter we met regularly at meetings. (I particularly remember a Gordon Conference where, with elevated blood ethanol levels, we challenged two very serious players to a couple of rubbers of bridge. Noun extemporised some surrealistic bidding conventions, and our playing felt almost telepathic. We slaughtered them, and they stormed off in deep sulks accusing us of a) not being serious, and b) of cheating.)
I began to visit Noun to give seminars at Beer-Sheva, got to know and adore Aliza, and the friendship expanded to our families.
Phase II began in Ljubljana when Noun asked if I would like to serve on the Board of Governors of Ben Gurion University, then in a crisis of confrontation between the Senate and the President and Executive Committee. From then on I saw Noun even more often, in his role as fiery, fearless spokesman for academia against bureaucracy, and also as hard-working, democratic, creative Dean. (Though he never looked really comfortable in academic robes at degree ceremonies - he hated pomposity.)
His inexorable illness was borne with dignity and humour, and his e-mail of farewell broke my heart.
Memories of Noun in no particular order
It was typical of Noun that, when Avi (my neighbor in Israel, a building contractor who was at first somewhat in awe of Noun's "international expert" status) was called in to do some work in his lab, Noun invited him to a party. Avi's reactions to me upon first meeting Noun pretty much sum Noun up -- "What a mamzer!" (which is really not exactly translatable to English...) and "He lives!!" Which he unquestionably did. And with a happily mischievous 'And what can I get away with this time?' approach.
Noun, only slightly tipsy at a party at his house, got out his pistol as proof that he'd somehow managed to be officially certified 'sane' by the Israeli government (gun ownership requires a permit there). He then waved it around, pointed it at Miriam Chipman, and noted to David Chipman that he could easily get rid of all Dave's problems, since if he shot Miriam, Noun would be in jail and Dave would have neither his wife nor his labspace-sharer to put up with.
My first meal in Israel was lunch at home with Noun and Aliza. He called out from the kitchen "Are you religious?", to which I answered "I'm not even Jewish!". Immediately, with a "What sort of people are they allowing in now?!", he brought out the ham.
I will first relate a personal recollection. After the Photosynthesis Congress in Brussels, Noun and Aliza kindly drove my wife Kath and me to Bruges. The ride itself was memorable and fast. But what sticks best in my mind was an incident that occurred once we got into the town and, of course, got lost. Noun stopped a local resident to ask directions. Now the resident spoke no English and Noun's knowledge of French and Flemish was not very good to non-existent. Somehow, Noun was able to communicate with the man. Noun spoke many words in several different languages, but I suspect that he got his point across by the animated use of his hands. I understood nothing. Noun got back into the car knowing more or less the right direction.
There is a point to this story that relates directly to Noun as a scientist. He was ever able and willing to communicate his thoughts about and enthusiasm for photosynthetic phosphorylation. His enthusiasm was infectious and his wonderful sense of humor made even the tensest meetings fun. The high point of many Gordon Conferences was the late evening session with Noun.
Noun was at the forefront of research in photosynthetic ATP formation. To cite just a few examples, Noun was one of the the first to use ionophores in the study of coupling, was a pioneer in nucleotide binding to the ATP synthase, was one of the first to use photoaffinity ATP derivatives with CF1 and had embarked on an ambitious program using biochemical and molecular biological approaches to elucidate the structure and mechanism of the ATP synthase.
I already miss Noun's scientific acumen and warm friendship.
Noun Shavit was one of the biochemists that recognized early the potential of molecular biology in adressing biochemical questions. Besides the collaborative efforts with Dr. M. Yoshida, using genetically engineered TF1 subunits, Prof. Shavit, in collaboration with Dr. S. Leu and Prof. H. Strotmann, initiated a program to study the chloroplast ATP synthase of C. reinhardtii by site directed mutagenesis in combination with advanced enzymatic and biophysical methods. This project developed to a vigorous effort involving several graduate students and in the last years started to yield a large amount of exciting results, parts of which have already been published (References ?) or submitted for publication.
In all instances, Noun's enthusiasm and his insisting on optimization, full reproducibility and clear interpretation of the research results were important lessons for his graduate students and proved to be crucial for publication of these results. Noun remained enthusiastic about this project right up to his last days, and helped to edit and critically discuss our most recent manuscript that has just been submitted for publication. It is most unfortunate that Noun did not live to see some additional, very exciting results derived from these mutagenesis studies and to experience the recognition this project gained internationally as judged by the excellent evaluation of two recently submitted grant proposals.
Together with his associate Stefan Leu, Noun established the molecular genetic techniques for a comprehensive program of mutagenesis of CF0CF1, but he could harvest only the first fruits of this research. I had the privilege to be involved in this project and I appreciate the successful, fair cooperation in an extraordinarily pleasant atmosphere.
During the many years of our acquaintance, Noun became my close friend and our friendship was carried forward to our families. My children loved him for his cheerfulness, for his kind interest in them at all stages of their development. I could discuss with him any professional or personal problem in great confidence and he gave me helpful advice many times.
We all knew Noun as a merry, joking colleague who was always in good spirits, but he was also thoughtful and at heart was a sensitive, warm, sympathetic and vulnerable man.
I lost a faithful friend.
I was searching for Noun's e-mail address when I came across his obituary on the Black Center for Bioenergetics in Life Sciences Web page. I am very sorry to learn of his death. I had not contacted him since his sabbatical in the Selman lab at the University of Wisconsin in the mid-80's. I was a graduate student then--struggling with CF1-CF0 from Chlamy.
He was, as his obituary suggested, an exceptional personality. And quite the driver, too; I've never been so terrified while sitting next to someone who was driving and talking as if the frantic and confused responses of all those who dared remain on the same road were completely normal. Before he left Madison, after breaking his arm playing tennis, my wife and I had him, his wife and the lab over for dinner. Noun naturally sat at the head of the table and proceeded to take over, which was quite alright with us because: A) we expected it, B) his wife was charming and had a very fetching way of shaking her head when he said something outrageous, and C) the dinner party was consequently a riot.
The thing I will always remember is how he and his wife left our apartment. She must have given him a signal because, nearly in mid-discourse, he firmly announced that they must now leave and he got up and arranged his coat around his shoulders and broken arm while we found his wife's coat. I couldn't help thinking that the drama of the departure was equally as suitable for a grand entrance. However, when Noun at last finished the latest section of whatever learned discourse he was regaling us all with, he swept his coat across his body, saluted us with a sweep of the good arm and marched, with long, purposeful strides, past the front door to a storage closet where he opened the door and marched in, shutting the door behind him.
He emerged after several seconds when most of the 5 or 6 remaining guests were on the floor rolling about. His wife was cracking up too and she quickly went to him, got out of the way as he gave us another sweeping salute, and they went out the door together (the correct one) holding on to one another. I was struck by the fondness they had for one another after their long marriage. If you speak to Mrs. Shavit please convey my condolences; it's possible she may remember that party.
But now, on to business---I'm looking for info on [... life goes on...]