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Theo Colborn, 1927–2014

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For nearly 30 years TEDX's founder Dr. Theo Colborn dedicated herself to revealing the dangers of endocrine disrupting chemicals to wildlife, humans and the environment. More recently she alerted us to the threats posed by chemicals associated with oil and gas development.

Theo’s visionary leadership and passion shone most brilliantly when she made direct connections between new ideas, scientists whose work confirmed them, impacted individuals, and people in positions to change what needed changing. She will be remembered for many generations to come, generations that she worked tirelessly to protect.

Below is a memorial of stories that people submitted to TEDX after her death on December 14, 2014.  If you have a story you would like to share, please submit it at the bottom of this page.

Comments (87)

  1. Michael Lerner:
    Dec 16, 2014 at 02:00 AM

    Theo is unquestionably an historic figure in the history of science. Her contribution will never be forgotten. We at Commonweal and the Collaborative on Health and the Environment grieve her passing. It was a privilege to have known her. In addition to being a great scientist, she was a wonderful human being and friend.
    Michael Lerner

  2. Sharon Green:
    Dec 16, 2014 at 01:20 AM

    This is sad news! In 1988-89, Theo and I worked at The Conservation Foundation/WWF, where, under the direction of Dr. Richard Liroff, we collaborated with several Canadian contributors on a book entitled, Great Lakes, Great Legacy. Her focus was, of course, on wildlife and ecosystems. That was when Theo first came up with her theory about endocrine disruption. She came to work each day totally amazed and horrified about what she was finding in the papers she was reading. She almost couldn't believe it. She understood the significance of what was coming together, and, as they say, the rest is history. She was truly an amazing and inspirational woman, and I feel privileged to have known and worked with her. Her legacy is indeed great!

  3. Joyce Hale:
    Dec 16, 2014 at 12:38 AM

    A close friend of mine and I declared ourselves to be Theo groupies. We made considerable efforts to hear her speak and were determined to meet her. As I struggled to learn the truth about fracking in order to teach others, she and the TEDX staff were my touchstone imparting confidence to speak out. Having no credentials of my own, Theo gave me the assurance I needed to feel I had found the truth. My friend and I are still in awe of the time Theo spent with us as we were lavished with two precious days of being in her presence. She proudly shared the work she and her staff were preparing for one of their critical reports, escorted us on a rim tour of the Black Canyon, pointed out where she had identified the state's first sighting of a particular bird species, shared stories of her work, family, history of the area and concern for the extractive excesses that were threatening the environment and communities. I cannot imagine ever knowing her equal for courage and persistence. Thankfully she knew to prepare for this day and influenced an organization that will continue her vision. Her life has been a gift to us all.

  4. Paul Goettlich:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 07:02 PM

    This is a big loss for us all. I first heard of Theo in 1996 when her "Our Stolen Future" was published. She provided astounding facts that catapulted me into many years of action. While I never met her in person, we did exchange emails when I first began to write about EDC. I purchased a full case of "OSF" and put a copy into the hands of anyone who promised to read it. Some people willingly took it, while others insisted on paying for it. I think it will be a very long time before anyone comes along who has her energy and logic, mixed with the ability to communicate vital information the way she did. I agree with her feelings about our future too.

  5. Jennifer Sass:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 06:42 PM

    Theo was a mighty force, and a great mentor to me. I will always cherish my time with her. She used to host a lunch once monthly at which all the young women scientists were invited to attend, support each other, and learn to be science-activists. There could be no better mentor than Theo!

  6. Karen Kurtak:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 06:34 PM

    Theo was one of Earth's biggest thinkers and helped us to all see that the tiniest things can send shockwaves through the entire system. She was my biggest hero and her commencement address at my graduation from Western State changed the entire course of my life. She will not be forgotten. On behalf of the people of Earth, thank you, thank you, thank you.

  7. Robyn Morrison:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 06:27 PM

    Theo always made me feel like the advocacy work I was doing was important and making a difference.....even when it was such a small drop in the bucked compared to the mountains she moved. She inspired, consulted and critiqued. Thank you for propelling us all forward to do the important work

  8. Fernando Bejarano:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 06:16 PM

    Theo Colbourn open te eyes of many NGOs about the endocrine disruption and how toxic chemicals can affect human beings and animals. We in RAPAM ( pesticide Action Network In Mexico) participate in a coedition of the spanish translation of Our Stolen Future with Greenpeace Spain, UITA, Comisiones Obreras and others and distributed in Mexico and other Latin America, the book is used in Toxicological socieries in agriculture college classes and among NGO activist. The Colbourn a honest and dedicated scietist to speak the truth. I have the honor to talk with her briefly in her office in WWF in Washington many years ago, and I remember that in her door she has a photocopy page with a rat and a quote from somebody to say If I expose my lab rat to toxics in the doses what they got from the environment I should ask for permission or something like that .In othr words sher represent an epistemological disobedience scientist that rebel against the global human experiment that we all are part of it for the unescrupulous expansion of the chemical industry and the ilusory control or failure of the actual refgulatory control paradigm. Hr words and spirit are with us, thanks Theo for all your dedication. Fernando Bejarano RAPAM director and IPEN Hub for Latin America

  9. Susan Law, Esq.:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 06:13 PM

    I got to know Theo while I was writing a report on natural gas drilling during an internship at the PA Governor's Policy Office during college. She was patient, kind, full of helpful information, and a wonderful storyteller. Theo's stories and support of my research had a big influence on me and she was part of the reason I decided to go to law school to study environmental law. She was an amazing person and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from her.

    -Susan

  10. Jeannie Economos:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 06:04 PM

    Theo Colborn is and has been undoubtedly one of my greatest heroes. I read Our Stolen Future in the late 1990's, when I was working with farmworkers who worked on the farms on Lake Apopka in Central Florida - farmworkers who were exposed to the same endocrine disrupting chemicals that caused reproductive abnormalities in the lake's alligators. She and other scientists she worked with endured derision and dismissal by other leading scientists around the world at the time. Now, we - and the world - know that what Theo Colborn exposed to the world is not only verified by many significant scientific studies, but has become one of the major health concerns of our time. I reference Out Stolen Future all the time - to groups of students when we do Lake Apopka Toxic Tours; to health professionals and environmentalists; and to local politicians. But, Ms. Colborn's work did not stop at the publication of this important book. Her work has continued to be not only influential but inspirational. She is of the greatest stature in my eyes, because she did great work humbly and with sincerity, commitment, passion and compassion. She made a difference in my life. She will always be an icon in my eyes. What an amazing lady! To her spirit, wherever it now lives, I want to say "Thank you!"

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