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NIH Eminent Scientist Profiles

Kenneth S. "Kacy" Cole (1900–1984)

Kenneth Cole, Ph.D., is considered the father of biophysics. He was the world's leading authority on the biophysics of the nervous system. His studies of the transmission of nerve impulses, especially those of electrical resistance in the nerve cells of squid, are credited with leading to the rapid advances in neuro-physiology seen during the 1930s and 1940s. Dr. Cole created the innovative technique known as voltage clamping that helped set the stage for the formulation of the "sodium theory" by Alan L. Hodgkin and Andrew F. Huxley, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1947. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1956 and received the National Medal of Science in 1967.

The Office of NIH History and Stetten Museum has gathered the following growing list of resources concerning Dr. Cole:

Dr. Cole's Own Reflections
"Mostly Membranes" in Annual Review of Physiology, 1979 (PDF, 693 kB)
"Membrane Watching" in Journal of General Physiology, 1968 (PDF, 350 kB)

NIH Publications
Obituary in NIH Record, 1984 (PDF, 18.2 mB)
Announcement of honors from the University of Uppsala, 1967 (PDF, 13.3 mB)

Journal Publications
Tribute by David Goldman in Biophysical Journal, 1985 (PDF, 457 kB)

Non-journal Publications
Biographical memoir by Andrew Huxley, 1996 (PDF, 216 kB)
Obituary in New York Times, 1984 (PDF, 298 kB)
President’s citation for National Medal for Science, 1967 (PDF, 176 kB)


photo of Cole
Kenneth S. "Kacy" Cole