Roger W. Cohen, PhD

About This Founder:

Co-Founder of the CO2 Coalition, Roger W. Cohen was a highly regarded physicist with major contributions to materials science and industrial management.  He passed away on September 10, 2016. 

After receiving his B.S. in Physics from MIT, Roger Cohen obtained MS and PhD in Physics from Rutgers and completed the Executive Program at the Harvard Business School.

Dr. Cohen spent 16 years at GE (originally the RCA) Laboratories in Princeton where he successfully demonstrated the first germanium-silicon thermoelectric power generator.  This technology subsequently powered a series of outer solar system exploration spacecraft: Voyager (launched 1977), Galileo (launched 1989), Cassini (launched 1999), and New Horizons Pluto Mission (launched 2006).  The oldest power units in these spacecraft are approaching their 40th year of service.  He was a member of the team that successfully developed and commercialized the world’s first commercial 100,000+ Gauss superconducting magnet, a major breakthrough in the industrial application of superconductivity.  Collaborating with Dr. Curtis R. Carlson, he developed an information theoretic description of the human visual system and associated software that simulates the human ability to perceive differences in displayed images.  This work led to many commercial pattern recognition and image quality applications, and several awards, including the first Otto Schade Prize for an outstanding scientific achievement in the advancement of functional performance and image quality of information displays, and a special Emmy award for improved high definition television.

Moving to Exxon Corporate Research Laboratories in 1978, Dr. Cohen organized and built the first research laboratory in theory and modeling at Exxon Corporation.  He became Laboratory Director and then Senior Director of Exxon Corporate Research in 1984, with responsibility for half of the basic research activities in the corporation.

In the late 1980s Dr. Cohen turned to technology development.  He formed and led an Innovation Group to develop and commercialize technology ideas for retail marketing.   His team demonstrated the world’s first vehicle recognition/payment technology in a retail fuel setting, evolving into the current SpeedPass® system.  Becoming Manager of Research Planning and Programs, Dr. Cohen initiated and deployed new strategies for key technology assets in energy, leading to the development of new high strength steels for gas pipelines, inter-corporate partnerships to advance fuel cells for transportation applications, novel technologies to find and produce hydrocarbon resources, and technologies for environmental bioremediation.  He established and led the first-in-industry competitive technology intelligence function and developed and implemented program-planning systems for new science knowledge assets. While at Exxon, Dr. Cohen initiated and led the only industrial research activity in basic research on climate change.  His Exxon team participated in the worldwide scientific efforts to understand climate better, and they were lead authors of key chapters of major IPCC reports. Having more time to study details of climate science after retirement, he became increasingly skeptical that increasing CO2 levels from human activities would be harmful. In the last few years of his life Dr. Cohen was convinced that more CO2 would benefit the Earth. He was a founding member of the CO2 Coalition and served on its Board.

Dr. Cohen was a founding member of the APS Topical Group on the Physics of Climate (GPC).  His work, as a member of GPC, demonstrated that he was a force for getting at the truth.  A source of tremendous integrity, he was an uncompromising believer in the principle that “Honesty must be regarded as the cornerstone of ethics in science.”

Dr. Cohen had approximately 50 publications and five US patents in the areas of materials, electronic devices, energy, the human visual system, and technology management.  He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society.  He has served on Visiting Committees in the physics departments at the University of California at San Diego and the University of Texas at Austin.