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Morris Cohen, 93; MIT Metallurgy Professor

June 13, 2005|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Morris Cohen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology metallurgist who helped develop the modern field of materials science and engineering that led to processing high-strength steel, has died. He was 93.

Cohen died May 27 at his home in Swampscott, Mass., of natural causes of aging, MIT officials announced.

A specialist in how such materials as iron are processed, Cohen earned the national Medal of Science in 1977 and the Kyoto Prize for advanced technology in 1987.

He taught at MIT from 1936 until long after his official retirement in 1987, after earning both his bachelor's and doctoral degrees at the institution. He built a 70-year relationship with MIT, which in 1974 established a chair in his name and gave him its faculty achievement award.

Cohen's interest in metals began in childhood in Chelsea, Mass., where his family produced and refined lead-based alloys used in metal type and solders.

The much-admired professor "transformed the discipline of metallurgy via his intellect, vision and personal effort into modern materials science and engineering," Edwin L. Thomas said in a statement from MIT announcing Cohen's death. Thomas has held the Morris Cohen chair in the school's Materials Science and Engineering section since 1989.

Cohen did much to define the new discipline, Thomas said, with his influential report "Materials and Man's Needs" written for the National Academy of Sciences.

The metallurgist also wrote widely on such topics as physical metallurgy, strengthening behavior of materials and mechanical behavior of metals.

Throughout his long academic career, Cohen maintained a close relationship with federal science and defense programs.

During World War II, he was associate director of MIT's section of the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb. He also served as official investigator for the federal Office of Scientific Research and Development.

Cohen was a member of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration advisory council from 1980 to 1983. Earlier he served as consultant to the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Defense and was on the National Materials Advisory Board.

He was a founder and former president of Temple Sinai in Marblehead, Mass.

Widowed by the death of his wife, Ruth, Cohen is survived by his son, Joel, of San Rafael, Calif.; two sisters, Louise Polansky of Los Angeles and Charlotte Freed of Chestnut Hill, Mass; three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. A daughter, Barbara Nordwind, also preceded him in death.

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