Paul Moritz Cohn. 8 January 1924 — 20 April 2006

George Bergman, Trevor Stuart


Paul Cohn was born in Hamburg, where he lived until he was 15 years of age. However, in 1939, after the rise of the Nazis and the growing persecution of the Jews, his parents, James and Julia Cohn, sent him to England by Kindertransport. They remained behind and Paul never saw them again; they perished in concentration camps. In England, being only 15 years old, he was directed to work first on a chicken farm but later as a fitter in a London factory. His academic talents became clear and he was encouraged by the refugee committee in Dorking and by others to continue his education by studying for the English School Certificate Examinations to sit the Cambridge Entrance Examination. He was awarded an Exhibition to study mathematics at Trinity College. After receiving his PhD in 1951, Paul Cohn went from strength to strength in algebra and not only became a world leader in non-commutative ring theory but also made important contributions to group theory, Lie rings and semigroups. He was much admired, and he travelled widely to collaborate with other algebraists. Moreover, he was a great supporter of the London Mathematical Society, serving as its President from 1982 to 1984.