ShareThis Page

Pitt physicist was strong voice in nuclear debate

| Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bernard L. Cohen, a professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh and an outspoken proponent of nuclear energy, died on Saturday, March 17, 2012. He was 87 and lived in Oakland.

Mr. Cohen retired in 1994 but continued his research at Pitt and planned to teach in the fall until he became ill earlier this year, said James V. Maher, Pitt provost emeritus and distinguished service professor of physics.

Mr. Cohen was an engineering officer with the Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

He received a doctorate in physics from Carnegie Institute of Technology -- now Carnegie Mellon University -- in 1950. He was a group leader for cyclotron research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 1950-58, joined the physics faculty at Pitt in 1958 and served as director of Pitt's Scaife Nuclear Physics Laboratory from 1965-78.

Mr. Cohen was a major voice in the national debate on radiation exposure, insisting scientists had grossly overestimated the health impact of low-level radiation.

Maher said Mr. Cohen did groundbreaking work in nuclear physics early in his career and later set standards for detecting radon gas in homes.

He was the author of six books and more than 300 articles and appeared in more than 50 televised interviews.

"He was quite a guy. He certainly will be missed," Maher said.

Mr. Cohen is survived by his children, Donald, Judith, Fred and Ernie Cohen; 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; and his partner, Ann Ungar.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me