Morris L. Cohen, 1927-2010

January 20, 2011

A lawyer turned academic librarian with "a great sense of puckish humour", Morris L. Cohen directed some of the US' most prestigious law libraries during his career.

Born in New York on 2 November 19, Professor Cohen began his academic life at the University of Chicago, where he earned his BA.

He went on to further study at Columbia University Law School and at the Pratt Institute School of Library Service.

He then launched his law career, moving back to New York, where he practised between 1951 and 1958 before switching paths to become a librarian.

His first post in his new profession was at Rutgers University's School of Law in neighbouring New Jersey, where he was appointed assistant librarian.

After a year in that post, he moved to Columbia University Law School to take up a parallel position.

His career quickly prospered, and he went on to become director of the law libraries at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1961 to 1963, the University of Pennsylvania from 1963 to 1971, and, from 1971 to 1981, Harvard University. He was director of the law library at Yale Law School from 1981 until his retirement in 1991.

In 1989, he received an honorary doctorate from Dalhousie University in Canada.

One of his most notable achievements was his six-volume Bibliography of Early American Law, which enables users to find any law book published in the US before 1860.

Evidence of his lifelong passion for books was to be found in his large personal library. In 2008, he donated his collection of law-related children's books to Yale, citing his affection for its rare book collection.

Robert Post, dean of Yale Law School and Sol and Lillian Goldman professor of law, said that everyone who came into contact with Professor Cohen understood "his talent, his scholarly range, his dedication and his love".

"We will miss his humour, his kindness, his gentle wisdom and his fascination with books and research," Professor Post added.

S. Blair Kauffman, law librarian at Yale, said: "Morris had a kind and gentle spirit, loved his teaching and engaging with students, and displayed a great sense of puckish humour.

"He was curious about everything and everybody and was a delightful meal companion who always encouraged sharing a dessert. He loved film and live theatre and above all, his wife, Gloria, and his family."

Professor Cohen died of leukaemia on 18 December 2010 and is survived by his wife and two children.

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