MORRIS COHEN never knew, and his parents later never remembered, the precise date or even year of his birth, except that it took place in Minsk, Russia, some time during 1880 or 1881. But when they decided to emigrate to America ( 1892), it became necessary to give a specific date of birth for every member of the family, and for Morris it was recorded as July 25, 1880. When they finally arrived in the U.S. and settled down in New York City, life turned out not so rosy or easy as expected, and there were many hardships and some poverty to endure. The boy grew up physically frail and sickly, somewhat of a recluse; so the mother made up her mind to do at least one thing: to give him a good education.
Accordingly, on completing his secondary education, Morris enrolled in the City College. He had already been for years interested in ancient thought, particularly Hebrew; but now he became interested in recent and contemporary ideas coming to him at first from his fellow-students, mainly from socialistic sources, and then from Thomas Davidson, of the Educational Alliance 1899), who acquainted the boy with modern philosophy as well.
It was understood all along in the family that Morris would be a teacher. Consequently, when he graduated in 1900 with a B.S. degree, he accepted a position to teach mathematics in one of the local highschools. However, neither the work nor the subject satisfied his aims and ambitions. Encouraged by some of his former professors, he then determined to continue his education, now at Harvard, where he earned the degree of doctor of philosophy in 1906.
Back in New York City, Cohen was invited to teach in his alma mater, in the department of mathematics. Reluctantly he accepted the job, but six years later he was able to arrange for a transfer to the department of philosophy, which was "a dream come true"; there he remained for more than a quarter of a century, never wishing to do anything else.
As a teacher, Cohen was strict and demanding; neither laziness nor stupidity were tolerated in his classes, but the more gifted