Chemist and teacher Saul G. Cohen played a key role in the early development of Brandeis University and remained an important part of the school for over thirty years. Cohen was born in Boston on May 10, 1916. He attended Harvard University, where he earned his AB summa cum laude in 1937, his MA in 1938, and his PhD in 1940.
Cohen remained an academic for the next few years, working at Harvard as both a research fellow (1939-1940, 1941-1943) and visiting instructor (1940-1941). After leaving Harvard in 1943, Cohen lectured for one year at UCLA as a National Research Fellow. After failing to find a university faculty position, Cohen began working as a research chemist outside academia, first at Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company from 1944 to 1955, and then at Polaroid from 1945 to 1950.
Still wanting to teach, Cohen left a lucrative position at Polaroid in 1950 to take a job at the fledgling Brandeis University. He immediately became a central figure at Brandeis, both as a professor and an administrator. Cohen was the first chair of the School of Science, a post he held from 1950 to 1955. That year, he became the University’s first dean of faculty, serving until 1959.
Cohen was promoted to Professor in 1952, University Professor in 1974, and named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement in 1986. He twice chaired the Department of Chemistry, 1955-1966 and 1968-1972. All the while he supervised numerous pre- and post-doctoral students in a laboratory that published well over 100 scholarly articles and reviews on topics such as photochemistry, reaction mechanisms, and free radicals in journals such as the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Cohen also worked outside of Brandeis, especially at his alma mater. He was a visiting professor at Harvard Medical School in 1965, worked on the Board of Overseers from 1983 to 1989, and served on the Joint Committee of Appointments from 1984-1989. Cohen also taught as visiting professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1972.
Cohen was awarded numerous fellowships and awards during his academic career; he was a Fulbright Senior Scholar (1958-1959), a Guggenheim Fellow (1958-1959), and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Cohen won the American Chemical Society’s James F. Norris Award in 1972 and the Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1992. Cohen also received patents in polymers, hydroxylamines as photographic developers, heterocyclic silver solvents, dye developers, and diagnostic assays.
Cohen died April 24, 2010 at the age of 93.