Raphael Mechoulam was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and immigrated with his family to Israel in 1949 where he later studied chemistry. He gained his first research experience in the Israeli Army working on insecticides. He finished his PhD thesis on the chemistry of steroids under the supervision of Prof. Franz Sondheimer in 1950s. After a postdoctoral stay at the Rockefeller Institute with Prof. S. William Pelletier he became a junior member at the Weizmann Institute of Science, focusing on the isolation, structure elucidation and total synthesis of the main active principles of marijuana.
As a full professor for medicinal chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he established the “Department of Natural Products”. His major scientific interest is the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabinoids. Mechoulam was awarded several prizes, including the Heinrich Wieland Prize in 2004, the Israel Prize in Exact Sciences – chemistry in 2000 and The Israel Chemical Society Prize for excellence in research, Feb. 2009. In 1999 The International Cannabinoid Research Society established the “Raphael Mechoulam Annual Award in Cannabinoid Research”.
He is an elected member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.