Ralph Kohn

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Ralph Kohn
Born (1927-12-09)9 December 1927[1]
Died 11 November 2016(2016-11-11) (aged 88)
Alma mater University of Manchester
Website www.ralphkohn.com

Sir Ralph Kohn FRS[2] FMedSci FBPhS (9 December 1927 – 11 November 2016)[1] was a British medical scientist, recipient of the Queen's Award for Export Achievement for his work in the pharmaceutical industry.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Sir Ralph was born in Leipzig. Raised in an Orthodox Jewish family with three other siblings, the Kohn family fled to Amsterdam upon the rise of Hitler in 1933. The Kohns, in May 1940, arrived as refugees in Manchester, via Wigan on the last boat that carried Jewish refugees from Holland to England.


Educated at Salford Grammar School,[1] Sir Ralph won a scholarship to the University of Manchester where he obtained a PhD in pharmacology.[when?][5]

Career and research[edit]

After completing his PhD, Sir Ralph pursued post-doctoral studies in Rome with Professor Ernst Chain and at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Sir Ralph, after a successful stint at Smith, Kline & French, set up Advisory Services, a pioneering company that conducted independent drugs trials for the pharmaceutical industry. In 1991, Sir Ralph set up the Kohn Foundation, which supports research and innovation in science and medicine, as well as the arts and education. The foundation endows several prizes for young scientists and musicians. It supports the Royal Society Kohn Award for science broadcasting and the Royal Academy of Music Bach Prize and the Royal Academy of Music / Kohn Foundation Bach Cantata Series.[6]

Awards and honours[edit]

Sir Ralph was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006, in recognition of his contributions to science via the Kohn Foundation.[2] He was also an honorary fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.[7][8] In November 2008, he delivered the Bynum Tudor Lecture at Kellogg College, Oxford.[9]

He was knighted in the 2010 New Year Honours for services to science, music and charity.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Sir Ralph married Lady Zahava in 1963 in Amsterdam and had three children; Hephzibah, Michelle, and Maxine. Sir Ralph was a long-serving member of Golders Green Synagogue and an attendee and benefactor of Shomrei Hadath. His main interests were music and singing (as a baritone), chess, and studying Talmud. In 2004, he was a guest on Sue Lawley's BBC Radio 4 radio programme, Desert Island Discs.[4]

Kohn financed John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Cantatas project:

We should give them [artists] the sort of means which will allow them to lead a reasonable existence where they can devote themselves with heart, soul and body to their work", Kohn says. "But the patron should not be their possessor. As Clifford Curzon once said: 'Isn't it nice that we can give something to young artists so that we can lift them closer to the stars.' That's all it's about.[11]

Kohn died on 11 November 2016, aged 88.[12]


  1. ^ a b c KOHN, Sir Ralph. ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who. 2016 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. closed access publication – behind paywall (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Anon (2006). "Sir Ralph Kohn FRS, Honorary Fellow". royalsociety.org. London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    "All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License." --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.

  3. ^ "Dr Ralph Kohn FRS Biography". ralphkohn.com. Archived from the original on 4 April 2004.
  4. ^ a b Sue Lawley (2004). "Desert Island Discs Castaways: Ralph Kohn". BBC. Retrieved 7 January 2009.
  5. ^ "Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition Jury for 2007". Wigmore Hall. Archived from the original on 1 June 2007. Retrieved 24 September 2008.
  6. ^ "Royal Academy of Music / Kohn Foundation Bach Cantata Series". Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  7. ^ "Academy of Medical Sciences: Fellows: Dr Ralph Kohn". Archived from the original on 1 October 2006. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
  8. ^ "Academy of Medical Sciences: Fellows: Honorary Fellows of the Academy". Archived from the original on 26 January 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2009.
  9. ^ "Oxford University Gazette, 6 November 2008: Lectures". Retrieved 7 January 2009.
  10. ^ "No. 59282". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2009. p. 1.
  11. ^ http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article5809887.ece (subscription required)
  12. ^ Sir Ralph Kohn (9 December 1927 – 11 November 2016) Rhinegold Publishing. Retrieved 15 November 2016.