Cohn, Edwin J. (Edwin Joseph), 1892-1953

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1892-12-17
Death 1953-10-01

Biographical notes:

Cohn taught physiological chemistry at Harvard.

From the description of Papers of Edwin J. Cohn, ca. 1928-1961 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 76973008

Cohn (University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1917) was chairman of the Dept. of Biophysical Chemistry, Harvard Medical School, director of the University Laboratory of Physical Chemistry Related to Medicine and Public Health, and chairman of the Division of Medical Sciences of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard.

From the description of Papers of Edwin Joseph Cohn, 1927-1963 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 281427877

Edwin J. Cohn (1892-1953), B.S., 1914, Ph.D., 1917, University of Chicago, Illinois, was Head of the Department of Physical Chemistry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (1935-1949); Chairman of the Division of Medical Sciences of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1936-1949); Director of the University Laboratory of Physical Chemistry Related to Medicine and Public Health, Harvard Medical School (1949-1953); and Chairman of the Department of Biophysical Chemistry, Harvard University (1949-1953). Cohn’s research focused on the physical chemistry of blood proteins and amino acids and, working with George R. Minot (1885-1950), he developed a method to extract the non-protein fraction of liver that contains the active component for the treatment of pernicious anemia.

Edwin Joseph Cohn was born in New York City, New York in 1892 to Abraham and Maimie Einstein Cohn. He attended the University of Chicago, where he received his B.S. (1914) and Ph.D. (1917) in chemistry. Cohn was a National Research Fellow from 1919 to 1920 at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he researched protein chemistry under Soren P. L. Sorensen (1868-1939). From 1918 to 1919, he served as the First Lieutenant of the United States Sanitary Corps, where he studied the physical chemistry of bread making using non-grain sources, and in 1920, began work at Harvard University on research centered on the physical chemistry of proteins and amino acids. Cohn was subsequently appointed: Professor of Biological Chemistry and Head of the Department of Physical Chemistry at Harvard Medical School (1935-1953); Chairman of the Division of Medical Sciences of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University (1936-1949); Higgins University Professor at Harvard University (1949-1953); Director of the University Laboratory of Physical Chemistry Related to Medicine and Public Health at Harvard Medical School (1949-1953); and Chairman of Harvard University’s Department of Biophysical Chemistry (1949-1953). Edwin J. Cohn is known for his work concerning the physical chemistry of the proteins and amino acids of blood. With George R. Minot (1885-1950), he is credited with developing a method to extract the non-protein fraction of liver that contains the active component for the treatment of pernicious anemia, and with T. L. McMeekin and John L. Oncley (1910-2004), he developed a method of fractionating blood plasma proteins in 1941 to extend the storage life of blood and use blood proteins more efficiently. Cohn also introduced serum albumin as a treatment for shock patients and gamma globulin as an immunization for measles and various other diseases, both used extensively during World War II.

Throughout his career, Edwin J. Cohn consulted for the American Red Cross and the Medical Department of the United States Navy, and served as a member of numerous organizations, including the American Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Research Council. His awards and honors include the Medal of Merit of the United States (1948), the Theodore William Richards Medal (1948), the Passano Award for Distinguished Service to American Clinical Medicine (1945), and the Alvarenga Prize of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (1942), among others. He is also known for his efforts to develop a patent policy for scientific research conducted in university settings. Cohn’s numerous publications include Proteins, amino acids, and peptides as ions and dipolar ions with John T. Edsall (1943), Blood and blood derivatives (1946), and History of the development of a patent policy based on experiences in connection with liver extract (1951).

Edwin J. Cohn married Marianne Brettauer (died 1948) in 1917, and had two sons, Edwin Cohn, Junior, and Alfred Cohn. He married Rebekah Higginson in 1948. Cohn died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1953, in Boston, Massachusetts.

From the guide to the Edwin Joseph Cohn papers, 1927-1955 (inclusive)., (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.Center for the History of Medicine.)

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Subjects:

  • Blood proteins
  • Pernicious anemia--Research
  • Patents

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