Sohn, Louis B. 1914-2006

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SOHN, Louis B. 1914-2006
(Louis Bruno Sohn)


See index for CA sketch: Born March 1, 1914, in Lvov, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine); died of complications from a stroke, June 7, 2006, in Falls Church, VA. Educator, government advisor, and author. A former professor of international law at Harvard University who later taught at George Washington University, Sohn was respected for his work with federal and international organizations and was a supporter of giving more authority to the United Nations. Born in a part of Poland that has since been integrated into the Ukraine, he earned a law degree at John Casimir University in 1939. He left for the United States to work as a research fellow at Harvard University just two weeks before the Nazis invaded Poland. Working under Manley O. Hudson, Sohn got his first taste of international affairs while an assistant to the judge, who worked for the Permanent Court of International Justice in the Netherlands. Hudson took Sohn with him, too, to the 1945 meeting in San Francisco, where the charter conference for the United Nations was held. Sohn became a lecturer at Harvard in 1947, gaining a full professorship in 1953 and taking Hudson's place as Bemis Professor of International Law in 1961. It was a position he would hold until 1981. While at Harvard, Sohn developed a reputation as an expert on international relations. As such, he was legal affairs officer for the U.N. from 1950 to 1951, a consultant to the U.N. secretariat in 1948 and 1969, and to the Department of Defense's Office of International Security Affairs from 1963 to 1970, counselor to the U.S. Department of State from 1970 to 1971, and again in 1982, and the U.S. delegate to the U.N. Law of Sea Conference from 1974 to 1982, among other positions. Sohn was interested in human rights and world disarmament, and he felt that a big step could be taken toward international peace if the United Nations were to be given more authority and power. He believed that the U.N. budget should be greatly increased and that nations should disarm and support a U.N. military; finally, he asserted that the U.N. budget could be used to equalize the disparities between wealthy and poor states. As far back as 1967, too, he was warning people that computer databases and genetic engineering could pose threats to individual rights and privacy. After leaving Harvard in 1981, Sohn taught at George Washington University, first as Woodruff Professor of International Law until 1991, and then as a visiting professor for a year and, in 1992, as distinguished research professor and director of research and studies for the International Rule of Law Center. Over his career, he published several books on international law, including Cases on World Law (1950), the four-volume Basic Documents of African Regional Organizations (1971-72), The Law of the Sea in a Nutshell (1984), and Rights in Conflict: The UnitedNations and South Africa (1994). Sohn was presented with the World Peace Hero Award from the World Federalists of Canada in 1974.



New York Times, June 23, 2006, p. C11.

Washington Post, June 14, 2006, p. B8.