Irvin S. Cohen
Died14 February 1955
Alma materJohns Hopkins University (Ph.D., 1942)
Known forCohen-Macaulay rings, Cohen structure theorem, Cohen-Seidenberg theorems, unmixedness theorem, Cohen rings
Scientific career
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisorOscar Zariski
Doctoral studentsR. Duncan Luce

Irvin Sol Cohen (1917 – February 14, 1955) was an American mathematician at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who worked on local rings. He was a student of Oscar Zariski at Johns Hopkins University.

In his thesis he proved the Cohen structure theorem for complete Noetherian local rings.[1] In 1946 he proved the unmixedness theorem for power series rings. As a result, Cohen–Macaulay rings are named after him and Francis Sowerby Macaulay.

Cohen and Abraham Seidenberg published their Cohen–Seidenberg theorems, also known as the going-up and going-down theorems. He also coauthored articles with Irving Kaplansky. One of his doctoral students was R. Duncan Luce.


Cohen died unexpectedly in 1955 one week after having visited Zariski in Cambridge, apparently from suicide. Many years later Zariski said of his death:[1]

Many things are necessary to make a good scientist, a creative man, and left on his own Cohen found himself unproductive. Highly critical of himself and others, he believed that nothing he ever wrote was as good as his thesis. He became increasingly involved with abstract algebra until he found himself at a certain point without ground under his feet. He became disappointed in his work, and finally, fatally, in his own ability.