Select Page

Remembering Leonard A. Cole


Leonard A. Cole, DDS, Ph.D

September 1, 1933-September 18, 2022

Leonard A. Cole, writer, educator, and civic leader, passed away September 18 following a brief illness.

Cole, acclaimed author of 11 books on a variety of topics, including most recently, Chasing the Ghost

(World Scientific, 2021) which chronicled the life of his late cousin Fred Reines, co-winner of the Nobel

Prize in Physics in 1995, for the discovery of the neutrino. The biography/memoir was a finalist for a

2022 Indie Book Award.

With an expertise in bioterrorism, Cole was a pioneer in the burgeoning field of terror medicine. In 2015

Cole became the founding director of the program on terror medicine and security at the Rutgers New

Jersey Medical School. He was also a longtime adjunct professor of political science at Rutgers


A resident of Ridgewood, N.J. since 1971, Cole had a dental practice in Hawthorne, N.J., for 39 years

until 2000. His retirement from dentistry enabled him to devote more time to teaching and writing.

Cole was born on September 1, 1933 in Paterson, N.J., the only child of Morris and Rebecca. He grew up

in Paterson and the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan but returned to Paterson for high

school graduating in 1951 from Eastside High.

He began his undergraduate career at Indiana University in Bloomington and relished his time playing

clarinet in the marching band and competing in the inaugural Little 500 bicycle race.

He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in 1957.

That year he married the love of his life Ruth Gerber, a newly minted graduate of Temple University,

who then accompanied him during two years of military service with the U.S. Air Force in Japan. He and

Ruth, who survives him, were married for 65 years.

After his time in the Air Force, the couple moved to Berkeley, California, where Cole worked at a dental

office and completed his bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of California-Berkeley.

He and his growing family moved back East in 1961 when he started his dental practice and eventually

enrolled part-time in a master’s and then doctoral program at Columbia University. He received his Ph.D

in political science from Columbia in in 1970.

Having written extensively about biological weapons, including anthrax, prior to the 9/11 terrorist

attacks, Cole was a frequent commentator and contributor to news outlets from the New York Times

and the Washington Post to CNN and MSNBC after letters laced with the potentially lethal bacteria

began showing up in the U.S. mail later in 2001.

He had earlier exposed little-known details of the U.S. Army’s dispersing of biological, radioactive, and

chemical agents on unsuspecting civilian populations across America in defense testing programs from

the 1950s through much of the 1980s, the basis of his book Clouds of Secrecy (Rowman & Littlefield,

1988). He testified numerous times before Congressional committees on topics related to biological

weaponry. And he was invited to give presentations to officials at the Department of Defense, the

Department of Energy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the former Office of

Technology Assessment.


A leader in the Jewish community, Cole served as chair of the Birthright Israel Committee of the Jewish

Federation of North America from 2006 to 2013. At the time of his death, he was a board member and

former chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a board member and former president of the Jewish

Federation of Northern New Jersey, and a board member of Rutgers Hillel.

In addition to his wife, Cole is survived by his children Wendy Cole of Oak Park, Ill.; Philip Cole (Rhoda

Alani) of Newton, Mass.; William Cole of Morristown, N.J.; and his six grandchildren Rachel, Charles,

Hannah, Matthew, Jaron, and Lucy.


Donations in memory of Leonard A. Cole would be gratefully appreciated at:

Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey (

50 Eisenhower Drive

Paramus, N.J. 07652

Hadassah (

300 Pleasant Valley Way

West Orange, N.J. 07052

Rutgers Hillel (

70 College Ave.

New Brunswick, N.J. 08901