Rufus Ivory Cole (1872 -1966) was an American physician and clinical researcher.

He was a pioneer in the development of clinical medicine research. His renowned works focussed on pneumococcus in lobar pneumonia. Cole’s early work included the aetiology study of typhoid fever. His early work on typhoid fever showed that typhoid bacilli were present in the initial stages of the disease through blood cultures.

Cole was the first director of the Rockefellar Institute for Medical Research (1908-37) and the Rockefellar University Hospital. His name is eponymous with the Cole-Cecil murmur (1908) of aortic insufficiency.

  • Born April 30, 1872 in Ohio, USA
  • 1896 – Completed an undergraduate B.S. degree at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor
  • 1899 – Graduated with a M.D. degree from Johns Hopkins University
  • 1899-1909 – Continued to work at Johns Hopkins Hospital, progressing to an associate in medicine. He then worked as the assistant physician head of the Biological Division of the Clinical Research Laboratory (1906-09), where he studied typhoid fever, demonstrating that the typhoid bacilli was present early in the disease
  • 1903-1904 Travelled to Berlin to work as a visiting assistant at the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases
  • 1908-1937 Appointed as the first director of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, with a research focus on five diseases: pneumonia, syphilis, poliomyelitis, heart disease, and intestinal infantilism (coeliac disease). Cole also oversaw the development of the associated Rockefeller University Hospital, which opened in 1910.
  • 1912-1920 Consulting physician at Willard Parker Hospital, New York
  • 1920-1921 Seventh president of the American Association of Immunologists
  • 1927 – Honorary D.Sc. degree from the University of Chicago
  • 1933 – Honorary D.Sc degree from the National University of Ireland
  • 1937-1966 – Emeritus member of the Rockefeller Institute
  • 1959 – Published his historical review of the seventeenth and late sixteenth century, titled Human History: The 17th Century and the Stuart Family
  • Died April 20, 1966 in Washington D.C.

Medical Eponyms
Cole-Cecil murmur (1908)

Early diastolic murmur of aortic insufficiency with radiation to the axilla.

Cole and Cecil examined 17 patients with provisional diagnosis of aortic insufficiency and mapped the site of maximal intensity and axillary radiation of the early diastolic murmur.

Having our attention drawn to the localization of an aortic diastolic murmur in the axilla we began to pay special attention to the occurrence of this murmur, and decided to make an accurate study of the distribution of the diastolic murmur in a number of cases of aortic insufficiency.

We foresee that the chief objection that will be raised to our description of the axillary aortic diastolic murmur will be that we have been listening to the diastolic mitral murmur (either a true stenotic murmur or a Flint murmur) which is transmitted into the axilla. We feel convinced, however, that such objections are not valid. The fact that the murmur described has been of exactly the same kind and quality as that heard at the base makes it seem almost certain that both have an identical origin.

Cole and Cecil 1908

Note: Original paper from 1908 and not 1936; and the cause of aortic insufficiency in the 17 cases included rheumatic fever, alcoholism, and syphillis and thoracic aortic aneurysm and not simply syphilitic aortitis as widely quoted

Key Medical Attributions

Under Cole’s guidance as director of the Rockefellar Institute for Medical Research and the associated hospital, considerable contributions to clinical research were produced in areas of bacteriology, immunology, biochemistry, and physiology. He was also an inspiring teacher and mentor in the training of future medical professionals.

His research on pneumococcus included the first effective treatment for type 1 pneumococci pneumonia through the production of a serum from horses immunised with the pathogen; and the epidemiology of lobar pneumonia with type 1 and 2 pneumococcus observed to cause 60% of cases.

Major Publications



Eponymous terms


Doctor in Australia. Keen interest in internal medicine, medical education, and medical history.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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