MC-04: Robert Hugh Cole papers
Robert Hugh Cole was born in 1914 in Oberlin, Ohio and died in 1990 at Brown University, Rhode Island, where he was Professor Emeritus. He had taught and done research at Brown for 43 years since first joining the faculty in 1947, then becoming chairman of the Chemistry Department in 1949. His wife was the former Elisabeth French and his older brother, Kenneth, was his mentor and collaborator.
At Oberlin College, Kenneth Cole, already an established physiologist, introduced his brother to research. Bob’s first scientific paper, co-authored with Kenneth, appeared in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments in 1932 while he was still a sophomore. The collaboration continued for the next ten years and yielded the famous publications on what is now called the Cole-Cole plot, which provides a representation of the dielectric properties of a substance.
After graduating from Oberlin College in 1935, Bob began graduate studies at Harvard University; he was the only experimentalist to work with Professor J.H. van Vleck, who later received the Nobel Prize in Physics. Bob earned his Ph.D. in 1940, and became an Instructor in Physics at Harvard.
Bob’s long association with WHOI began in the summer of 1941 when he became a research supervisor in the Underwater Explosives Research Lab (UERL), where he worked with Paul Fye, James S. “Spike” Coles and others. He wrote his first book, Underwater Explosions, based on his research at WHOI. This research examined the fundamental physical properties of shock wave development and propagation and theories concerning shockwaves. In 1948 Cole received the President’s Certificate of Merit for this research in aid of the war effort.
In 1946 Cole went to the University of Missouri as Associate Professor of Physics. In 1947 he was persuaded to accept an Associate Professorship at Brown University and two years later was made Chairman of the Chemistry Department. In 1956 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and also published Physical Principles of Chemistry with Spike Coles, also formerly at WHOI’s UERL. He became a member of the WHOI Corporation in 1966 and was also an Associate.
His contributions to research through publications with his students, colleagues and his individual efforts were recognized in several ways. In 1975, he was awarded the Irving Langmuir Prize, the highest national award in chemical physics. The Brown Chemistry Department, also in 1975, appointed Cole the John Howard Appleton Lecturer, an honor that until then had been bestowed only on guests from outside Brown. Other honors awarded to Cole included a Fulbright Lectureship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a National Science Foundation Senior Fellowship.
Additional biographical information can be found in the WHOI Biographical file and in memorial tributes (f 20).
(Adapted from Robert Cole Memorial Minutes at Brown University, 1991)
The one carton of material spans the years 1935 to 1993, primarily from 1941 to 1979. The papers consist of correspondence, publications, awards and certificates, newsclippings, visual materials, a photograph album, reports, lecture notes, telegrams, a guest book and memorabilia.
The custodial history of the materials is undocumented.
Robert Hugh Cole papers, 1935-1993. MC-04, "Folder Name." Data Library and Archives, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The Robert Hugh Cole papers were given to the Institution Archives in 1990 and 1991 by John Berberian, Cole’s former student and collaborator at Brown University, and include material from accessions 91-3, 91-4, 91-5, 2004-44 and 2007-20.
Second-level processing completed by Brenda Rocklage and Margot B. Garritt in 1996. The folders were untitled, placed in a broad chronological arrangement at the time of accessioning, and listed. They have been given subject titles and placed in an alphabetical arrangement, chronologically within subject. The ‘Biographical File’ folder was placed at the beginning of the collection. Materials were placed in acid-free folders and boxes and labeled, and photographs were placed in archival sleeves. Newsclippings were photocopied, metal staples and paper clips were removed.
Open: materials are available for research.
Copyright: Permission to publish material from the collection must be authorized by the Institution Archivist.
A photograph of Cole receiving an award, and a small lantern glass slide of 2 boats were added to his biographical file. Three general radio resistors as used by WHOI’s UERL were added to the instrument collection.
- Photographs, explosive shots surface plumes, 1942-1944
- Negatives, targets with shot holes, 1942-1944
- Photographs, general, B and W, 1942-1944
- Photographs of underwater explosions, as used in Underwater Explosions book, B and W, 1948
Researchers wishing to find related materials should search the MBLWHOI Library catalog under these terms.
Most of Cole’s papers consist of correspondence files with information on his fellowships, lectures and conferences. Some photocopies of news clippings and photographs are interfiled with related correspondence. There is also some personal correspondence from Cole to his wife; a report written by Cole on the “All Soviet Union Conference on Physics of Dielectrics” held in Moscow in 1958; and a memorial by Cole in honor of his brother, Kenneth Cole. Several files contain photographs and negatives (photographic) relating to Cole’s work at WHOI on underwater explosions (ff.24-27). Ephemera includes a First Day Issue of a coronation stamp from June 1953, biographical information, and some of Cole’s notes and record-keeping. Among the numerous awards is the President’s Certificate of Merit, signed by President Truman, for his work done between September 1941 and December 1945 (oversize folder in box).
Folders are placed in an alphabetical arrangement, chronologically within subject. A series of notebooks is arranged after the alphabetical files. Oversized material and realia are located at the end of the series.
- March 24-April 24, 1975
- July 9-11, 1965
- 1945, 1950
- 1953-1991 (scattered), undated
- September 1987
- July 1993
- 1967, 1968
- November 20-28, 1958
- December 1985
- March 22, 1956
- July 22, 1992
- 1979-1989, undated
- April 24, 1975
- November 24, 1955
- March 1, 1948
The Photographs series consists of two photographs of Robert and Elizabeth Cole meeting President Lyndon Johnson on February 13, 1968, a photo album of a symposium at General Electric in Schenectady, NY in 1975, and a folder of miscellaneous photographs.
Folders are arranged alphabetically by subject.
- February 13, 1968
- April 17, 1975
- 1958-1990, undated