Judith Love Cohen

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Judith Love Cohen
Judith Love Cohen, 1959.jpg
Cohen and the Atlas / Able satellite on which she worked in 1959
Born(1933-08-16)August 16, 1933
DiedJuly 25, 2016(2016-07-25) (aged 82)
Culver City, California, U.S.
Burial placeEden Memorial Park Cemetery
Other namesJudith Love Siegel
Judith Love Black
Judith Love Katz
Occupation(s)Aerospace engineer
Years active1952–2016
Spouse(s)Bernard Siegel
Tom Black
David A. Katz
Children4, including Neil Siegel and Jack Black

Judith Love Cohen (August 16, 1933 – July 25, 2016)[1] was an American aerospace engineer. Cohen worked as an electrical engineer on the Minuteman missile, the science ground station for the Hubble Space Telescope, the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, and the Apollo Space Program.[2] After her retirement as an engineer, she founded a children's multimedia publishing company,[3] eventually publishing more than 20 titles before her death in 2016. Cohen was the mother of computer scientist and engineer Neil Siegel and actor/musician Jack Black.

Early life and education[edit]

Cohen was born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Sarah Cohen (née Roisman) and Morris Bernard Cohen.[4] By fifth grade, her classmates were paying her to do their math homework. She was often the only girl in her math classes, and decided she wanted to become a math teacher.[5] By age 19, she was both studying engineering in college, and dancing ballet in the Metropolitan Opera Ballet company in New York.[3]

She received a scholarship to Brooklyn College to major in math, but realized she preferred engineering. After two years at Brooklyn College, Cohen married and moved to California, working as a junior engineer for North American Aviation, attending the University of Southern California (USC) at night; she said that she went through both her BS and MS programs at USC without ever meeting another female engineering student.[3] She received both her bachelor's and master's degrees from USC Viterbi School of Engineering, in 1957 and 1962 respectively,[6] and continued her association with the university, serving as an Astronautical Engineering Advisory board member.[3]

In 1982, she became a graduate of the UCLA Engineering Executive Program.[3]


Cohen's engineering career began in 1952, when she worked as a junior engineer at North American Aviation.[3] After graduation from USC Viterbi School of Engineering in 1957, she went on to work at Space Technology Laboratories. Space Technology Laboratories eventually became TRW (acquired by Northrop Grumman in 2002). She stayed with the company until her retirement in 1990. Her engineering work included work on the guidance computer for the Minuteman missile and the Abort-Guidance System (AGS) in the Apollo Lunar Module. The AGS played an important role in the safe return of Apollo 13 after an oxygen tank explosion left the Service Module crippled and forced the astronauts to use the Lunar Module as a "lifeboat." Supplies of electrical power and water on the LM were limited and the Primary Guidance and Navigation System used too much water for cooling. As a result, after a major LM descent engine burn two hours past its closest approach to the Moon to shorten the trip home, the AGS was used for most of the return, including two mid-course corrections.[7]pp. III-17,32,35,40 According to her son Neil,[3] "My mother usually considered her work on the Apollo program to be the highlight of her career. When disaster struck the Apollo 13 mission, it was the Abort-Guidance System that brought the astronauts home safely. Judy was there when the Apollo 13 astronauts paid a 'thank you' to the TRW facility in Redondo Beach."

In 1990, after retiring from practice as an engineer, she began a publishing company called Cascade Pass with her third husband, David Katz.[3] They published two series of books:

  • The "You Can be a Woman … " series was created to encourage very young girls to pursue careers in science and engineering
  • The "Green" series focuses on promoting positive environmental practices, aimed at young children.

Cascade Pass has sold more than 100,000 of their children's books in these two series.[3]

Cascade Pass also published a book called The Women of Apollo (written by Robyn Friend, Cohen's daughter-in-law), which features short biographies of four women who helped put the first man on the moon, Cohen among them.[3][2][6]

Selected honors[edit]

  • May 2014, IEEE-USA Distinguished Literary Contributions Award – for her work with STEM for children[8]

Personal life[edit]

In the mid-1950s, Cohen married fellow engineer Bernard Siegel, whom she had met while she was a freshman in engineering school at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York. They had three children: engineer/scientist Neil Siegel, Howard Siegel, and Rachel Siegel. The couple divorced in the mid-1960s.[3]

In the mid-1960s, Cohen married Thomas "Tom" William Black, who converted to Judaism for her. In 1969, they had a son, Hollywood actor Jack Black. In a memorial tribute, her son Neil notes that she was troubleshooting problems with schematics on the day she went into labor, called her boss to let him know she had fixed the problem and then delivered Jack.[9] The couple divorced in the late 1970s.[3]

In the early 1980s, Cohen married David A. Katz.[3] They had been married for 35 years at the time of Cohen's death, after a short battle with cancer in 2016.[3]

In 1991, Cohen's son Howard died of AIDS at the age of 36.[10]

Selected works and publications[edit]

  • A Clean series
    • A Cleaner Port. A Brighter Future. The Greening of the Port of Los Angeles (co-authored with Robyn Friend)[11]
    • Friend, Robyn C.; Cohen, Judith Love (2010). Rathbone, Lee (ed.). A Clean Earth: The Geothermal Story. Marina del Rey, CA: Cascade Pass. ISBN 978-1-880-59998-3. OCLC 667210598.[12]
    • A Clean Planet: The Solar Power Story (co-authored with Robyn Friend)[11]
    • A Clean City: The Green Construction Story (co-authored with Robyn Friend)[11]
    • 2007: A Clean Sky: The Global Warming Story (co-authored with Robyn Friend)[13]
      • Friend, Robyn C.; Cohen, Judith Love; Katz, David A. (illustrations); Yáñez, Juan (traducción al español) (2007). Un cielo limpio: la historia del calentamiento global (in Spanish). Marina Del Rey, CA: Cascade Pass. ISBN 978-1-880-59983-9. OCLC 156822457. – Spanish language translation of A Clean Sky: The Global Warming Story
    • Future Engineering: The Clean Water Challenge (co-authored with Robyn Friend)[11]
    • Los Angeles Clean Energy Future (co-authored with Robyn Friend)[11]
    • Los Angeles Water Future (co-authored with Robyn Friend)[11]
    • A Clean Sea: The Rachel Carson Story
  • You Can Be series
  • Tu Puedes Ser series
    • Tu Puedes Ser Una Ingeniera
    • Tu Puedes Ser Una Arquitecta
    • Tu Puedes Ser Biologa Marina
    • Tu Puedes Ser Una Zoologa
    • Tu Puedes Ser Una Oceanografa
  • Other
    • Friend, Robyn C.; Cohen, Judith Love; Katz, David A. (illustrations); Rathbone, Lee (editing) (2012). Electricity and You: Be Smart, Be Safe. Marina del Rey, CA. ISBN 978-1-935-99902-7. OCLC 803961217.[11]


  1. ^ "Judith Cohen Obituary (1933–2016) – Culver City, CA – Los Angeles Times". www.legacy.com. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Friend, Robyn (2006). The Women of Apollo. Cascade Pass, Inc. ISBN 1-880599-79-1.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Siegel, Neil (July 29, 2016). "In Memory of Judith Love Cohen: Mother, Wife, Friend, Author, Engineer". USC – Viterbi School of Engineering.
  4. ^ Who's who in the West. 1982. ISBN 9780837909189.
  5. ^ "Women in the Workplace / Judith Love Cohen: Engineering a Change: A Hubble telescope designer aims to rewrite the book on careers for girls with a series of stories about women in math and science". LA Times. September 6, 1999. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Tawa, Renee (September 6, 1999). "Women in the Workplace / Judith Love Cohen: Engineering a Change: A Hubble telescope designer aims to rewrite the book on careers for girls with a series of stories about women in math and science". LA Times. Archived from the original on July 15, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  7. ^ Apollo 13 Mission Operations Report, April 28, 1970
  8. ^ Coopersmith, Sandra (May 29, 2014). "Guiding Girls to Lofty Goals". Culver City Observer. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
  9. ^ "In Memory of Judith Love Cohen: Mother, Wife, Friend, Author, Engineer".
  10. ^ Rader, Dotson (October 8, 2015). "Thrills & Chills with Jack Black". Parade.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g "Publications – Robyn Friend". February 27, 2017.
  12. ^ "A Clean Earth: The Geothermal Story". Cascade Pass. 2010.
  13. ^ Vázquez, José (October 1, 2008). "Growing Up Green". BioScience. 58 (9): 884–886. doi:10.1641/B580918.
  14. ^ "Cascade Pass, Inc. Is a publishing company providing books and CD roms for girls about science and careers". Retrieved August 7, 2014.

External links[edit]