In the accompanying article, M. Michael Cohen Jr. has given us a biographic essay that—like the title—may, on first glance, appear to be a travelogue. Mike takes us through these five cities (and several other international locales) telling an exceptional story of learning, teaching, and scholarship along the way. The named cities are, in fact, the locations for the schools and universities of his childhood, his professional training, and his faculty life. Mike's narrative is rarely about geography and a lot about the academy. What is particularly noteworthy is that his account parallels the early days and emergence of Medical Genetics as a specialty in medicine. We learn about his time as Robert Gorlin's first and only genetics fellow, and we hear of personal accounts on many of the pioneers in the field who studied malformations and genetic syndromes (David Smith, John Opitz, Bruce Beckwith, Josef Warkany, and Thomas Shepard).

Reading about Mike's Boston of the late 1940s and 1950s, the roots of his rich cultural background, and the influence of both of his parents illuminate us with a glimmer of insight into the genesis for his never-ending energy (“Sleepless in Seattle” and Nova Scotia) and his boundless initiative to contribute to the field—whether it be a book, a keynote address, or a scholarly review.

M. Michael Cohen Jr., DMD, PhD, has had and continues to have a remarkable and productive career in medical genetics. Perusal of his CV or a reading of the Introductory Comments to his Festschrift issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics [Carey and Erickson, 2007] provides an impressive list of accomplishments, especially in the scholarship on congenital malformations and their syndromes. To name just a few:

  • 1.
    The delineation of many conditions besides the three syndromes he originally described (Cohen, Proteus, craniofrontonasal) [Carey and Erickson, 2007].
  • 2.
    The coining of the now widely accepted terms for many disorders, including Antley-Bixler, Baller-Gerold, Linn-Gettig, among others.
  • 3.
    The visiting professorships to several countries (e.g., Italy, Japan, Brazil), representing all of the continents of the world except Antarctica (—and if there were frogs there, it would quickly be added to the list).
  • 4.
    The author of the most downloaded papers from the Journal's web page [Cohen, 2003; Cohen, 2006] in the last 5 years. (Each of these papers has been downloaded during 2004 to 2008 over 5,000 times.)

But in my personal opinion, while acknowledging the many lectures, appointments, reviews, and books, I would suggest that Mike's proudest achievement of his academic career is his role in mentoring junior people in the field. He continues this endeavor even in his present role as an Emeritus Professor.

In closing, there is one final trait that could not be left out of any tribute to Dr. Michael Cohen—his singular humor. It is impossible to separate this well-known characteristic of him from the rest of his remarkable persona. Many in the field likely share my thought that he is one of the few persons in the modern era who prefers the telephone over the e-mail. Every phone call, while always covering ideas for a new paper, his next chapter, or an upcoming lecture, will contain something to make me laugh. Think about this: When was the last time you have read a biographical account of a scientist who had included humor as a heading?

With all due respect to Lewis Carroll (and the “walrus”), the subtitle of my piece is a humble attempt to highlight a few of the many scientific themes of Michael Cohen's story. This Living History—Biography (the latest in our revival of this Special Feature of the AJMG) informs us of the many dimensions of his career and in so doing teaches us about some of the history of medical genetics of the last 45 years.


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