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March 1: The First History-of-Science Ph.D

March 1, 2015

OBIT - I Bernard CohenI. Bernard Cohen, the first American to receive a doctorate in the history of science — from Harvard, in 1947 — was born in Far Rockaway, New York on this date in 1914. Cohen was an internationally known Isaac Newton scholar who taught at Harvard until his death in 2003. He published twenty books and some 150 articles, including Albert Einstein’s final interview just before the great scientist’s death in April, 1955. Cohen’s books included Franklin and Newton (1956), The Birth of a New Physics (1959), The Newtonian Revolution (1980), Revolution in Science (1985), Science and the Founding Fathers (1995), Howard Aiken: Portrait of a Computer Pioneer (1999), and his posthumously published The Triumph of Numbers (2005) — as well as the first translation from Latin of Newton’s Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy since 1729, more than 900 pages, which took fifteen years to complete. Cohen was a founding member of the Kennedy School of Government’s seminar in science and public policy, and also held lectureships at Cambridge, Brandeis, and Tel Aviv University, among other institutions of higher learning.

“I hope that, decades from now, when I and my other books have been forgotten, this [his Newton translation] will still be useful to scholars and students.” —I. Bernard Cohen