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In Memoriam: Saul G. Cohen, 93

By Alex Schneider

Section: Features

April 30, 2010

Professor Saul G. Cohen, Brandeis’ first chemistry department chair, dean of faculty and university professor, died last Saturday due to heart failure. Cohen was 93.

Current Chemistry Department Chair Irving Epstein described Cohen as a “man of enormous breadth of intellect and interest, not only in science but in literature, politics and many other areas.”

He added, “He was probably the most important person in setting Brandeis on a course toward becoming a great research university.”

Over his career, Cohen played a crucial role in Brandeis’ development. In 1950, Cohen left Polaroid, where he had worked to develop organic chemicals necessary for instant-film, to join the faculty of Brandeis. In addition to taking on numerous administrative leadership roles, Cohen worked with pre- and post-doctoral students to publish more than 100 articles and reviews on topics such as photochemistry, reaction mechanisms and free radicals, according to his Brandeis biography.

According to Epstein, Cohen even continued “his research in organic chemistry and its applications to systems of biological importance” until illness prevented him from working.

Cohen also received a number of awards. He was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in 1958, a Guggenheim Fellow in 1958 and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1972, Cohen received the American Chemical Society’s James F. Norris Award, and in 1992 he received the Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Cohen graduated summa cum laude from Harvard with a degree in chemistry and went on to earn a doctorate from the school.

Cohen leaves his wife, Anneliese, his daughter Elisabeth, his son Jonathan, his stepchildren Elizabeth Kissinger and David Kissinger, and nine grandchildren. His family has asked that in lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to The Saul G. Cohen Memorial Fund c/o The Development Office at Brandeis University.

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