Front Page

Previous Story

Next Story

NIH Record


NIAID Microbiologist Cole Is Mourned

By James Hadley

Dr. Roger M. Cole, a microbiologist who was a distinguished NIAID intramural research scientist for 32 years, died at age 83 of a heart ailment on Feb. 12 at the Marina Health Nursing Home in Bethesda, where he had lived for 18 months after suffering a stroke. He is mourned by family, friends and colleagues.

He retired in 1981 after spending his entire NIH career in NIAID, ultimately serving as chief of the Laboratory of Microbiology and the Laboratory of Streptococcal Diseases. His research focused on the nature of streptococci, with the aim to better understand streptococcal diseases and their sequelae such as rheumatic fever and nephritis.

Dr. Roger M. Cole

Dr. Richard Krause, who served as NIAID's director from 1975 to 1984, remembers Cole as "an internationally recognized research leader in streptococci and streptococcal diseases. He and his colleagues contributed regularly to the best scientific literature in this field. He is noted for his discoveries on the mechanisms of bacterial cell division. Dr. Cole was acting scientific director of NIAID's intramural program from September 1975 to December 1976."

Based on his observations of streptococci, Cole developed widely accepted theories on the possible modes by which new cell walls are formed in growing bacteria. He and his colleagues conducted many other studies of strep, including such "firsts" as investigations of bacterial phages that infect streptococci and the demonstration that phage-mediated transduction supplied the only means known (at the time) for genetic transfer among streptococci causing human diseases. These studies opened new pathways for exploring aspects of streptococcal pathogenicity.

In addition to providing many contributions to the ultrastructure of microorganisms, Cole was instrumental in defining a vast new group of mycoplasmas and in discovering viruses and plasmids; in initial descriptions of the bacillus of Legionnaire's disease; in discovery of a unique bacterium of snails, and of previously unknown bacterium associated with red blood cells in a human disease; and in the finding and description of a new and yet unnamed mycoplasma in human urogenital disease.

In 1971, Cole was awarded the PHS Meritorious Service Medal for "leadership in basic research on the microbial causes of disease, and his outstanding investigations on characterizations and functions of bacterial ultrastructures."

Cole, in conjunction with other prominent scientists, was a founder and former president of the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences at NIH and played a role in establishing the teaching activities of that organization. He was also a past president of the NIH Federal Credit Union.

After earning his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1943 and M.D. from Boston University in 1947, he joined PHS and came to Bethesda in 1949. He began his long association with NIAID as an epidemiologist and made early contributions to an understanding of sarcoidosis and herpangina (a Coxsackie virus disease of children). In 1951, he became chief of the respiratory bacteriology unit within the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases (LID), and subsequently, in succession, assistant chief of LID, head of the bacterial structure and function section, and chief of the Laboratory of Microbiology. When the Laboratory of Streptococcal Diseases was established in 1973, Cole was named chief.

Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Margaret Lamson Cole, of Bethesda; three sons: Larry Alan Cole of Rockville, Md., Richard Lamson Cole of Indian Head, Md., and George Michael Cole of Bethesda; two daughters, Susan Cole Booth of Davis, Calif., and Marthe Cole Jones of St. Leonard, Md.; a sister; and six grandchildren.

Pioneering NINDS Scientist Joe Gibbs Dies

By Shannon E. Garnett

Dr. Clarence "Joe" Joseph Gibbs, Jr., chief of NINDS's Laboratory of Central Nervous System Studies (LCNSS), died on Feb. 16. He was 76 years old.

Internationally recognized for his pioneering work on infectious diseases of the nervous system, Gibbs was probably most famous for his work, in collaboration with Dr. D. Carleton Gajdusek, on slow virus infections and diseases associated with prions — proteins that can cause fatal disease in humans and animals. Together, Gibbs and Gajdusek demonstrated infection as the cause of kuru and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), two subacute progressive degenerative brain diseases that belong to a class of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Their research resulted in the award of the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology to Gajdusek in 1976.

Dr. Clarence "Joe" Gibbs Jr.

"Dr. Gibbs was highly regarded not only for his seminal role in the investigations of the TSEs and in expanding our knowledge, but also as a wonderful human being," said NINDS acting director Dr. Audrey S. Penn. "All of us at NINDS will miss him."

A native Washingtonian, Gibbs earned his A.B., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Catholic University. He carried out predoctoral research in clinical microbiology and virology in the department of hazardous operations at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, where he developed a vaccine for Rift Valley fever virus.

Gibbs came to NIH in 1959 as a research microbiologist in the Laboratory of Tropical Virology, NIAID, and in 1960, he became acting chief of the lab's section on arthropod borne viruses. He joined NINCDS (now NINDS) in 1962 as head research microbiologist in the Branch Virus Laboratory. In 1971 he became deputy chief of the LCNSS, and was later named chief of that lab, the position he held at the time of his death.

Along with his dedication to the laboratory, Gibbs often took time to share his knowledge with others. He served as associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and on numerous interagency government task forces including the PHS interagency coordinating committee on human growth hormone and CJD, the interagency committee on bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and the interagency animal model committee. He also served as senior scientist and consultant chair on TSEs to the division on emerging diseases of the World Health Organization, and to the division of neurosciences of the Pan American Health Organization. In an effort to establish a breeding program for rare and diminishing species, he once provided gorillas to two metropolitan zoos — in Florida and North Carolina.

According to Levon O. Parker, minority and special concerns program officer and director, NINDS Summer Program, Gibbs was a champion for training students for careers in biomedical research, particularly in the neurosciences. "He was a long-time supporter of the institute's many training and development programs for students and young scientists," said Parker. "Through the years he recruited, trained and mentored more than 500 students — a large percentage of whom were minorities and women — helping them to develop the skills they needed to pursue research careers. Because of his efforts, today many of those students are conducting biomedical research at prestigious institutions across the country."

Aside from the many students Gibbs trained through the NINDS Summer Program, he also participated in two cooperative programs of note — one with students from the University of South Florida and the other with junior scientists from Japan. Upon completion of the USF program — in which the students traveled to Bethesda and worked in laboratories for several months — the students returned home and were graded on their lab work. Under the cooperative program with Japan, Gibbs trained young scientists in his lab and, armed with new skills, the scientists returned to Japan to train others.

In addition to his career in science, Gibbs also led a distinguished military career that began with service in the U.S. Navy during World War II from 1943 to 1946. He then served for more than 40 years in the Naval Reserves until retiring in 1986.

Throughout his career, Gibbs received numerous awards and honors including the Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding service in the U.S. Naval Reserves, the first NINCDS Equal Employment Opportunity Award, the HHS Gold Medal for research, and a number of honorary degrees. He was twice awarded the Senior Executive Service Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award, and was also the recipient of the Ottorino Rossi Award from the University of Pavia, Italy, and the Lifetime Science and Humanitarian Medal of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Immunology and Aging from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Science.

Up to Top