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NLM Mourns Loss of Sheldon G. Cohen, MD

Sheldon Cohen, M.D.

Sheldon G. Cohen, MD (1919-2013)

Sheldon Cohen, MD, a longtime friend and supporter of the historical collections at the National Library of Medicine, died peacefully at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland on March 26, 2013. He was 94.

Dr. Cohen was acutely aware of the central role of history in understanding his own clinical research into allergy and asthma. His own book, Excerpts from Classics in Allergy, which only recently appeared in its third edition as a free e-book, was largely researched in the NLM History of Medicine Division (HMD).

Dr. Cohen was a generous donor to the History of Medicine Division, contributing many books and photographs to the collection, often in the memory of his colleagues. Dr. Cohen also commissioned for the library bronze busts of three of his personal heroes: Maimonides, Pasteur, and Jenner, from sculptor Karen Leigh, and a set of 20 bronze medals commemorating historically eminent physicians and medical scientists from sculptor Abram Belskie. The busts and medals are on permanent display in the HMD Reading Room.

In the late 1990s, Dr. Cohen worked closely with the NLM to develop a major exhibition that explored the history of asthma, which was curated by historians Robert Aronowitz, MD, and Carla C. Keirns, MD, PhD, MSc. Breath of Life opened March 22, 1999 and ran through March 28, 2001.

Dr. Cohen strongly championed and was instrumental in shaping “Voices from the Past” and “Voices from the Present,” two sections of the NLM’s Breath of Life exhibition, featuring biographies of notable individuals who reportedly had asthma. He also was a positive influence in the National Library of Medicine’s partnering with the National Institute of Environmental Diseases, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to provide funding for the exhibition and to help shape the public health messages for the gallery on contemporary issues associated with the disease.

With the support of the Friends of the National Library of Medicine, Dr. Cohen secured funding from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology for the publication of an exhibition catalogue, and identified the essay author, science writer Charles Marwick.

Bronze busts of Jenner, Maimonides, and Pasteur

Bronze busts of (l. to r.) Edward Jenner, Moses Maimonides, and Louis Pasteur,
by sculptor Karen Leigh. Dr. Cohen commissioned these busts, which are on permanent display
in the History of Medicine Reading Room of the National Library of Medicine.

The National Library of Medicine, the world's largest medical library, is a component of the US National Institutes of Health.