Jonathan O. Cole, M.D. (1925–2009)

Jonathan O. Cole, M.D.Jonathan Cole had a remarkable impact on psychiatry and psychopharmacology which should be re-evaluated to clearly establish the enormous contribution he made to the field and the people who came into contact with him. He was born on 16 August 1925. He went to Harvard College and then onto Cornell University Medical School, graduating in 1947 and continued there in psychiatric residency at Payne Whitney Clinic from 1948 to 1951. After his residency he went into the U.S. Army.

In 1953 he took a position as a Professional Associate to the committee on Psychiatry at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. where he remained until 1956.

I have known Jonathan Cole for the past 50 years. We first met when I was a visiting scientist at the University of Michigan and he was making a follow-up site visit with two of his junior staff, Rees Jones and the late Jerry Klerman. They were visiting the Schizophrenia and Psychopharmacology Research project that Jon had played a major role in establishing. Some of the details can give some idea of his vision and breadth of scope. The Director was Ralph W. Gerard a famous neurophysiologist from the University of Chicago, and his deputy was an American psychiatrist. The investigators were drawn from the U.S. and the rest of the world – Japan, Sweden, Britain, Germany and one from Australia. It was a 5-year centre grant and during this period other investigators came in and some moved on. We did not cure schizophrenia but produced many findings that did influence the state of the art in its infancy and most certainly its progress. This one example illustrates his goal of seeding research sites and creating in them the ability to metastasize.

Subsequent to this experience I worked in other centres in the U.S. and found that Jon Cole, the travelling salesman for psychopharmacology, had already visited and left his mark or came shortly after and helped establish a new site.

His centre of operation was as Chief, Psychopharmacology Service Center at NIMH from 1956 to 1966 and from 1966 to 1967 as Chief, Psychopharmacology Research Branch, NIMH. He was in effect the head of a worldwide Marshall plan for psychopharmacology. There was another unique aspect to his operations. They were personal and hands on. He would identify a Dr X who had special skills in one or another relevant discipline and explore whether this individual was a potential investigator in the cause, then he and his colleagues would help that person or group get a start. His personal involvement in this mission was one of his great contributions to the success of the investigator and the success of the mission. To this task he not only brought exquisite clinical skills and understanding but a charm and jolly cheerfulness that was therapeutic for new investigators.

After he left NIMH he returned to Boston, to Boston State Hospital from 1967 to 1973 and then to McLean Hospital in Boston where he was active as a psychiatrist and an investigator and was productive in carrying out clinical research and coming up with new ideas. He contributed several hundred publications to the literature, including research papers, book chapters, and books. Letters to the editor was another way for him to present interesting observations based on his exquisite clinical acumen.

His continued contribution to the development of the field was his active involvement in the developmentand growth of the ACNP and he became its President in 1965–1966. He also dedicated his efforts to support the CINP and was secretary of the organization from 1966–1969 and was awarded the CINP, Pioneers in Psychopharmacology Award in 2002.

Over the past several years he was ill and for a while restricted in his mobility, but he still attended scientific meetings and would be active in discussions and suggesting new approaches to issues under discussion.

My personal relationship was similar to these descriptions– always generous and helpful whatever the issues or problems were. I am saddened by this loss of a friend and know that psychopharmacology has lost a hero.

University of Miami Miller School of Medic

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