• SSPF

Leon Jacob Cole | 1939

A leader in applying genetics to agriculture, best known for pioneering bird-banding as a field research method.

1877- 1948 | Artist: Othmar J. Hoffler (1893-1954)



Impact & Accomplishments


Dr. Leon Jacob Cole, born in Allegany, New York, was an early leader in applying genetics to agriculture.


Cole conducted research in Alaska, Bermuda, and Central America and focused his early work in ornithology. He led the first studies to leg-band birds, as a method for studying their migration. After completing his doctorate in zoology from Harvard in 1906, he became chief of animal breeding and pathology at the Rhode Island Experiment Station.


In 1910, Dean Russell at the University of Wisconsin made the bold step to establish a Department of Experimental Breeding (later Genetics) within the College of Agriculture, and Dr. Cole was hired to lead it. There, he developed a broad network of cooperative research for the improvement of plants and animals.


Dr. Cole held multiple leadership positions, including with the National Research Council, the Genetics Society of America, the journal American Naturalist, and Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. The American Society of Animal Production presented his portrait in 1939.


Did You Know?


Dr. Leon J. Cole is considered by many to be the "father" of American bird banding which helped set the foundation for today's work in computer analysis of banded birds and other new technologies.


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