Earth Surface Science Institute (ESSI)

Prof. Julius Berend Cohen, PhD DSc FRS

Prof Cohen

Julius Cohen was a lecturer in the old Yorkshire College from 1891-1904 before joining the University of Leeds upon foundation. He was professor of organic chemistry from 1904-1924 and specialised in both experiential and theoretical chemistry. Professor Cohen helped develop Chloramine-T, an antiseptic used to treat casualties in the military hospitals. He also assisted the Royal Society War Committee by preparing large amounts of Novocaine, a local anaesthetic for use in military hospitals of the First World War. His research involved investigating urban air quality over many years and provided conclusive evidence that smoke from coal burning had negative impacts on people and the environment.

‘Smoke as experienced in England, and even in Leeds, the center of the greatest industrial region in the world is distinctly deleterious to health.’ (Soper GJ, 1926, Amer. J. Publ. Heath, 18(2) 168.)

He was a prominent member of the Coal Smoke Abatement Society (probably the oldest Environmental NGO in the world) and campaigned vigorously for smoke abatement. His most famous work on the subject ‘Smoke: A Study of Town Air’ (co-authored with Arthur Ruston, 1925) summarised over 20 years of his laboratory and field based research on the effects of smoke and was published just one year before the 1926 Public Health (Smoke Abatement) Act, one the oldest pieces of environmental legislation in the world.

We chose the name ‘Cohen Geochemistry’ to represent our group as we too combine field, laboratory, and theoretical science to better understand chemical processes at the Earth surface. We also aspire to provide fundamental new understanding in geochemistry and provide relevant practical advice for the abatement of today’s environmental problems.

Below are images taken from ‘Smoke: A Study of Town Air’ (1925) Cohen JB and Ruston AG, Edward Arnold and Co., London. (out of copyright, 2005)


'Smoke: A Study of Town Air’ (1925)

Melted snow - Leeds (1825)
Radishes of Hunslet and Weetwood
Effect of sulfuric acid on plant growth

Further reading

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