Pioneering science reporter, alumnus dies

Liz Bogut

Victor Cohn, 80, an award-winning science and medical reporter and Minnesota Daily alumnus, died of cancer Monday in Washington, D.C.
Cohn, the Daily’s editor in chief in 1940-1941, went on to report for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune and the Washington Post.
“He was really an outstanding science and medical reporter of his time,” said Graham Hovey, who worked with Cohn at the Star Tribune for nine years.
Cohn, the first double-winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science award, had an outstanding journalism career that lasted more than five decades.
“His career was a demonstration of the talent he started out with. He pursued it to the very end,” said Gus Cooper, a Minnesota Daily co-worker.
Cohn graduated from the University with a journalism degree. During his tenure at the University, he served as editor of the Daily for one year.
He was inducted into The Minnesota Daily Hall of Distinction in 1996.
“He spoke fondly of his experiences at the Daily as though they were yesterday,” said Deborah Cohn Runkle, Cohn’s daughter. “He wanted to be a part of everything at the School of Journalism.”
After college, Cohn worked at the Minneapolis Star and Tribune for 20 years, where he began his career as a science and medical reporter.
“He was essentially a pioneer in medical writing at a time when things like open-heart surgery were just beginning,” said Lewis Cope, who worked with Cohn at the Star Tribune in the 1960s.
Hovey said Cohn had an ability to write about a complicated subject in a way people could understand.
“I once heard a faculty member tell a group of journalists in Murphy Hall, ‘If all daily newspapers in America had a science reporter like Cohn, scientists would have few complaints about journalism,'” Hovey said.
Cohn left the Tribune in 1968 to pursue a job as science editor at the Washington Post, where he stayed for another 25 years.
During his time at the Washington Post, Cohn won the American Chemical Society’s James T. Grady Award for coverage of the landing of the first astronauts on the moon.
He also originated the column, “The Patient’s Advocate,” which dealt with the national health problems and how to get good health care.
In addition, Cohn wrote for Reader’s Digest, Ladies Home Journal, American Health and Smithsonian.
He has been honored by the American Medical Writers Association, the American Psychological Association and other groups.
“He had a real passion and zeal for journalism. He didn’t even seem elderly — he worked until the day he died,” said Runkle.
In addition to Runkle, Cohn is survived by daughter, Phyllis Beetsch, son, Jeffrey, and six grandchildren.

Liz Bogut welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.