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March 2014

Mór Cohen, Better Known as Moriz Kaposi

Author Affiliations
  • 1Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda, Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
JAMA Dermatol. 2014;150(3):265. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.10001

Today, Moriz Kaposi is remembered for the first description, in 1872, of the entity that bears his name,1 but he was also one of the founders of the Viennese School of Dermatology.

Kaposi was born in 1837 in a poor Jewish family. The story of his name is curious: his first name is written “Moritz” in the records of the Jewish Community, but he almost always used “Moriz,” and in some of his Hungarian publications he used “Moricz” and “Mór.” The many versions of his first name simply reflected the multiple languages spoken by the educated classes in the Hapsburg monarchy. Originally his surname was Cohen, but, after his conversion to the Catholic faith, he changed it in 1871 to Kaposi, in reference to his birth town Kaposvár, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is still debated why he changed his surname; it is unlikely to have been due to the pressures of anti-Semitism because Kaposi was not an opportunist, and at that time he was well established in his career. According to his own words, Mór Cohen changed his surname to avoid confusion with 5 other physicians named similarly in the Vienna School of Medicine.2

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