Born in London, Tabor was a physicist. He was renowned enough that when he was 32 in 1949, Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion sent him a letter offering a job, to create Israel’s National Physical Laboratory. Once that was complete, Tabor set on applying technology to solve problems. His first task: getting the country on a measurement standard — at the time, the country used a mishmash of measurement systems from the British (Imperial units like the ounce, pint, and yard), Ancient Arabic units used by the Ottoman Empire, and the metric system. “You’d see grocers measuring things by putting stones on scales,” Tabor said. Once that was done, Tabor, who was also working on completing his doctorate, turned to refining the solar-powered water heater first created by engineer Levi Yissar. Electricity was in short supply in the country in the early 1950s, so much so that the government severely restricted electricity to heat water. Tabor experimented with various coatings to optimize the absorptivity of solar energy, while minimizing re-radiation of the heat that was absorbed. This led to his development of the “Tabor Selective Surface” — a “black chrome” for the copper water-bearing plate. The result made the dude shemesh (“sun-boiler”) solar heater so simple, efficient, and effective that 95 percent of homes in Israel now have at least one, providing most of the country’s hot water.
The units also became popular in other sunny countries, especially in the Mediterranean region. Tabor then brought the innovations to the United States, consulting for solar start-ups such as Northrup, which later merged into ARCO Solar, which became BP Solar. Then, in turn, the water heaters became popular in many other countries including Australia, Jordan, and Egypt. Tabor continued in solar power research for the rest of his career. He was awarded the Weizmann Prize for Exact Sciences in 1956. He was also awarded medals from the Royal Society of Great Britain, the Krupp Foundation Energy Award, and the Presidential Medal of Distinction from Shimon Peres. “There is no person in Israel or in the world who contributed so much to energy independence, sustainability, and the energy field in general,” says Amit Mor, CEO of EcoEnergy, who named Tabor “Energy Man of the Year” in November at the Israel Energy & Business Convention in Tel Aviv. A few years ago, Tabor was asked what he is most proud of. “Ask my wife,” he said. Viviane Tabor replied: “I would say creating awareness of clean energy and ridding ourselves of the complete dependence on oil. When we first got here, people thought he was crazy. Yet he created awareness which now everybody takes for granted.” Tabor agreed. Dr. Harry Zvi Tabor died December 16, at 98.