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Cole, Frank Hobill (1863–1934)

by David M. O'Sullivan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Frank Hobill Cole (1863-1934), paediatrician, was born on 2 February 1863 at Carlton, Melbourne, third child of John Richards Cole, importer from Cambridgeshire, and his wife Elizabeth, née Horton, widow of William Baines. After education at Scotch College, East Melbourne, he was apprenticed to P. McLean, pharmacist of Fitzroy, qualifying from the School of Pharmacy in 1884. He concurrently studied medicine at the University of Melbourne from 1882, graduating M.B., Ch.B. in 1887, and began as a resident medical officer at the Melbourne Hospital for Sick Children along with Dr Jeffreys Wood.

Cole maintained an interest in the three institutions from which he received his education. He was the medical officer to Scotch College boarders for twenty years; he introduced regular physical examinations and growth records and, as a member of the school council, was closely involved in the school's move to Hawthorn Glen. During the formative years of the School of Pharmacy and the Victorian College of Pharmacy, Cole was lecturer (1891-1903) and later examiner (1898-1920) in materia medica. He became a member of the Pharmacy Board and represented it on the faculty of medicine at the University of Melbourne. At the Children's Hospital he became out-patient medical officer in 1892 and in-patient in 1900, acting as both physician and surgeon. He retired to become honorary consultant in 1920.

Cole's private practice was conducted from 88 Rathdowne Street, Carlton, and from Lister House, Collins Street. His consultant practice was limited to children, thus he became one of Melbourne's first paediatricians. To become Cole's assistant in his private practice was an apprenticeship most sought: notable amongst these doctors were H. Douglas Stephens (who married Cole's daughter Eileen), Reginald Webster, (Sir) (Frank) Kingsley Norris, (Sir) William Upjohn and Alan McCutcheon. Undoubtedly Cole's greatest achievement was his influence on the teaching of paediatrics, both at the Children's Hospital, and more importantly to this growing coterie of young paediatric specialists, both physicians and surgeons, who themselves carried his clinical tradition for another generation.

Cole collected Australian paintings and literature with discernment. He was said to have the best local collection of books on the discovery and exploration of Australasia. His paintings were sold by auction in 1923, probably because his circumstances changed with the progressive development of Parkinson's disease.

On 31 October 1888 at Mornington Cole had married Alice Flude, daughter of C. J. Jenner; she died aged 26 in 1891 after the birth of their second child. On 16 December 1901 at Rippon Lea, Elsternwick, he married her sister, Clara (Claire) Josephine by whom he had five children. He retired in the early 1920s to Mornington because of increasing debility and died there on 6 December 1934 of heart failure, survived by his wife and seven children. He was cremated. He had worshipped regularly at the Collins Street Independent Church before his retirement.

Cole was a gentle and humble man, greatly respected by his contemporaries for his superior knowledge and skill in medicine, surgery and therapeutics. He was a generous benefactor to many institutions and people in need. He was among the last who practised as a physician and surgeon with equal skill, and among the first in Melbourne to specialize in diseases of children.

Select Bibliography

  • Medical Journal of Australia, 14 Mar 1959
  • Australasian Journal of Pharmacy, 30 Sept 1967
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

David M. O'Sullivan, 'Cole, Frank Hobill (1863–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cole-frank-hobill-5721/text9677, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 9 December 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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