Manfred (Freddy) Kosten was born in 1928 in Vienna, Austria to a Ukrainian father and Polish mother. In March 1939, he travelled to the UK with his older sister Claire on a Kindertransport, and their parents joined them later.
Kosten studied mining geology at Imperial College London (1945-49) and on graduating became a civil servant working initially in the Gold Coast [Ghana], later with Balfour Beatty in East Africa and Nigeria.
In 1962, Kosten married Helen, a teacher and colleague of his sister. They spent their honeymoon on board ship heading for Nigeria, returning to the UK later in the 1960s. In 1971 Kosten joined the Natural Environment Research council (NERC), and later worked in Data Protection for the Greater London Council.