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Colleagues, students paint glowing portrait of Cohen

Colleagues and former students paid tribute to Institute Professor Emeritus Morris Cohen at the May 12 dedication of a new oil painting of him commissioned by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE).

"There are a very few people who have added immeasurably to this department, and that's why we're here today--to recognize one of the leaders of this department for the past 60 years," said Thomas W. Eagar, DMSE department head and POSCO Professor of Materials Engineering.

Dr. Cohen, an internationally recognized authority on the mechanism and kinetics of martensitic and bainitic phase transformations and the recipient of numerous national and international honors, including the 1987 Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology, was obviously pleased with the portrait painted by Anthony Iarrobino of Marblehead, MA.

"I'm really finding it hard to locate the words to express myself on this special occasion," said Dr. Cohen, who earned the SB and the ScD in metallurgy from MIT in 1933 and 1936, respectively. "I've been at MIT for 68 years--about 80 percent of my life. I've had the pleasure of working with many wonderful students over the years. I also want to thank Marge Meyer [his assistant for 50 years] for her contributions to the students and to me.

"The words of Immanuel Kant come to mind: 'What can I know, what ought I to do, and what may I hope?' These are the words I continue to live by and, as the years pass, I hope you will think about them as well."

Professor John Vander Sande, associate dean of the School of Engineering, called Professor Cohen "a dedicated and always-involved educator and teacher." Andy Kulin, president of ManLabs Inc., and a former student of Professor Cohen's, recalled a remark Dr. Cohen made in the 1948 Edward DeMille Campbell Memorial Lecture: "I stand on the shoulders of my students." He added, "Today we gather to honor the contributions Dr. Cohen made not only to the Institute, but to the lives of each and every one of us."

Professor Eagar said he was inspired to commission a portrait of Professor Cohen while attending a function in the Bush Room. "I noticed that the last oil painting done of someone from our department was of Robert Williams [head of what was then the Department of Metallurgy from 1937-46]. I thought it would be good for future generations to recognize the leaders who have helped to shape the department over the past 50 years."

The background of the portrait contains some items of significance to Dr. Cohen: a bust of Moses Maimonides, the 12th-century Hebrew scholar; a crystal structure of cementite; and a text on martensite, a material which Dr. Cohen has studied for many years. The portrait hangs in the Chipman Room (8-314).

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 4, 1997.

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