International law pioneer Louis Sohn dies at 92

Post Date: June 9, 2006

Professor Emeritus Louis B. Sohn, one of the 20th century’s leading international law scholars and a member of the Harvard Law faculty for 39 years, died on Wednesday, June 7. He was 92.

An expert in many aspects of international law, Sohn’s contributions went far beyond his teaching to include extensive work advising governments and international organizations. He was a key player in the 1945 San Francisco conference that led to the creation of the United Nations Charter. He is also considered a founding father of two fields of international law: human rights and international environmental law.

Sohn joined the Harvard Law faculty in 1951 as an assistant professor. He earned tenure in 1953 and later held the prestigious Bemis Professorship, the nation’s first endowed chair dedicated to the study of international law.

In addition to his many years at Harvard, Sohn subsequently taught at the University of Georgia and George Washington University law schools.

Born in what was then known as Austria-Hungary, Sohn was educated in Poland and came to the United States to attend Harvard Law School, where he earned his LL.M. and S.J.D. degrees.

Sohn was chair of the International Law Section of the American Bar Association and president of the American Society of International Law. He was the first recipient of the International Environmental Law Award, given by the Center for International Environmental Law. A fellowship in human rights and the environment presented by the CIEL is named in his honor.