Sir Ralph Kohn is a medical scientist, musician and entrepreneur.
He was born in Leipzig, Germany and left with his family as a result of the Nazi persecution in the 1930s. He then lived in Amsterdam, Holland until 1940 when he fled to England after the German invasion of Holland.
He obtained his PhD in Pharmacology at Manchester University and subsequently carried out 3 years of postdoctoral research at the Istituto Superior di Sanita, Rome with Sir Ernst Chain FRS, who shared the Nobel Prize for Penicillin with Fleming and Florey in 1945 and Professor Daniel Bovet, the 1957 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine.
Sir Ralph also spent a year as a postdoctoral Fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, N.Y. in the Department of Pharmacology with the distinguished pharmacologist Dr Alfred Gilman.
After 12 years as senior executive in the international pharmaceutical industry, he established in London the first independent medical research organisation particularly for the clinical evaluation of new drugs.
He received the prestigious Queen’s Award for Industry in 1990 and has worked in close collaboration with many well-known international pharmaceutical companies.
He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Doctor of Science, Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (London), Honorary Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2006.
He established the Kohn Foundation in 1991 in support of science, medicine, the arts (particularly music) and Humanitarian Aid.
Ralph Kohn is also a musician having studied first the violin, and subsequently trained vocally as a baritone. In addition to giving many public performances, he has recorded 16 CDs mainly in the Lieder Repertoire, including the Song Cycles by Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven, Mahler, accompanied by leading British pianists, including the acclaimed Graham Johnson. He has also made orchestral recordings with the English Chamber Orchestra and is particularly associated with the music of Bach.
His Foundation is closely involved with the Royal Academy of Music in their Bach Cantata Series, and Wigmore Hall’s International Song Competition, London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music (London) and Doctor of Music.
In 2011 Sir Ralph was presented with the Medal of Honour of the City of Leipzig for his Bach-related activities.
The Cross of the Order of Merit (“Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland”) was awarded to Sir Ralph by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany on 21 January 2014. Click here to find out more about this award on the official website of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in London.
He has also described his life and work in 2003 as a guest of Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs.