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The Endocrine Disruption Exchange
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Theo Colborn, 1927–2014

theo-final-2

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. Maura Stephens, Coalition to Protect New York:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 05:57 PM

    I first heard of Theo Colborn and The Endocrine Disruption Exchange in 2003, in Baghdad, from a fellow peace activist. When I returned to the USA I looked into the TEDX materials and found them riveting and enlightening.

    A few years later I began my own research into fracking, as it had recently begun exploding my neighboring state of Pennsylvania and was threatening my home state of New York; TEDX material was indispensible. In the intervening years Theo graciously videoconferenced into several meetings and public forums sponsored by the Coalition to Protect New York and other groups in the Northeast.

    Besides her crucial scientific inquiry and explication for the public, she was a patient and tireless responder to my sometimes stupid questions. She helped so many of us understand complex and frightening subjects, and did so without ego or judgment. She reserved her judgment for those who are poisoning us all.

    She was one of my great heroes, and I know many others share this feeling. Deepest sympathies to those closest to her, and eternal thanks to Theo for gracing us with her keen intellect and big heart for the short time she spent on the Earth she loved.

  2. Michael Fry:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 05:56 PM

    Theo will be greatly missed. I first met Theo at the Wingspread Work Session in 1991, and we remained good friends ever since. Theo gathered together a group of scientists for the wildlife-human connection in a work session that terrified, energized, and brought dedication to our work on the newly coined term “endocrine disruption”. That Work Session, and the follow-on conferences, speaking engagements, EPA committees, and Federal legislation brought a completely new perspective on pesticides and industrial chemicals. Theo literally was a next generation Rachel Carson. She was an inspiration to all of us who participated at Wingspread, and a wonderful spokesperson on the risks of chemicals in the environment. It will be important for all of us to continue her work.

  3. Larry Plumlee:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 05:41 PM

    As the president of the Chemical Sensitivity Disorders Association, I was surprised when Theo told me she was chemically sensitive. We often found ourselves at meetings concerned with pesticide toxicity, and around Washington, D.C. at the theatre. She was a fine scientist, and increasingly a public health activist in her latter years. This year (2014) the American Academy of Environmental Medicine awarded her the Jonathan Forman Award, established in 1968 "to honor one of the great pioneers in the field of Environmental Medicine. This award is given to an individual, not necessarily a medical doctor, who in the opinion of the Academy has made an outstanding contribution to the field of Environmental Medicine."

  4. Sarah Vogel:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 05:08 PM

    I’m so sad to hear of Theo’s passing. What a great loss to the field. I recall her telling me when I visited many years ago that she wanted her ashes spread up along one of the more stunning mountain passes. I’ve forgotten the name of the place but I know her spirit will run free across those tremendous mountains that she adored. I will always treasure the time I spent with her in Colorado. I will miss her mischievous laugh and her boundless energy. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have known and cared about her.

    My thoughts are with all of the TEDx family.

  5. Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D.:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 05:00 PM

    Remembering Theo Colborn: On July 22 2012, I "cold-called" Dr. Colborn and invited myself for a visit. I was nervous. After all, she was one of the people I most admired for her work protecting the environment and future generations. I was driving through Paonia, CO, and this was my chance. My friend and Paonia organic farmer, Don Lareau, encouraged me to make the call. I dialed her number. Could I possibly stop to speak with her, I asked.
    Dr. Colborn told me I could come by, but I would have to leave when her professional colleague, and our mutual friend, biologist Fred Vomsaal called to work on a project. Fair enough.
    I showed up with a fresh organic peach, my offering for her good health and enjoyment, and my husband with his camera and tape recorder. We wasted no time in getting to the heart of our shared concerns. She told me about the time she had been accidentally sprayed by pesticides from a crop duster while driving to a friend's home. She was still suffering physical ailments following that exposure decades earlier. She answered my many questions, and confirmed that the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, was indeed an endocrine disruptor, AND then she dropped a bombshell: She told me that we were creating a new generation who could not feel or express empathy, due to the effects of endocrine disruptors on children's developing brains. I cried when I heard those words. I can't imagine a society that can't feel empathy. But I believe in the wake of recent revelations in the news, we are increasingly witnessing one.
    I posed for a photograph with Dr. Colborn, holding a copy of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring." And she was later my guest on Food Sleuth Radio.
    I promise to carry Dr. Colborn's words and the work of TEDX to my audiences.
    Thank you Dr. Colborn for your bravery. You are a role model for us all. We must carry on your work.

  6. James G. Herman:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 04:51 PM

    I met Theo Colburn only once at The Cooper Union in New York City.
    She was the keynote speaker for "Hydro-Fracking for Natural Gas" in April of 2010.
    Just by chance I was sitting next to her before she was to speak.
    Even though we exchanged only a few comments she was totally open to talking with
    me, a complete stranger. Her forthright manner and kindness emanated as we spoke.
    Her work was a great inspiration to me and my friends as we organized our community in upstate New York to resist fracking.

  7. Jill Escher:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 04:47 PM

    Dear Dr. Colborn,

    Several years ago, as I read Our Stolen Future, I scribbled some notes in the margin: "... hormone disruptors derailing human evolution ... upsetting normal developmental processes ... invisibly undermining the human future...." And as I wrote these words I gazed upon my two gorgeous children, jumping, flapping, nonverbal, and so impaired as to be nearly nonfunctional. And I thought about my children and the hundreds of thousands of other young people incapacitated by the mysterious seemingly-out-of-nowhere abnormal brain development we call autism, and shook my head, "I don't think that Dr. Colborn fully realized how very, tragically right she was."

    I was honored a year later that I did have the opportunity to speak with you on the telephone and tell you the story about my own prenatal exposure to large quantities of powerful synthetic hormone drugs that were widely used under the false belief they would prevent miscarriage, and my hypothesis that these novel, lab-made chemicals had disrupted the intricate programming of nascent fetal egg and sperm. The story resonated with you and your observation regarding the vulnerability of the human germline.

    The work of the Escher Fund for Autism will continue your quest to delve into "Inner Space"--the molecular intricacies of DNA architecture and gene expression that make us human, but are so threatened by aberrant signals in our drugs and chemicals. Thank you, Dr. Colborn, for your wisdom and tenacity, and working to protect the invisible, molecular world that makes us human.

    Jill Escher
    Escher Fund for Autism
    GermlineExposures.org

  8. Anja Leetz:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 04:35 PM

    It was the book our stolen future, which I read back in 2001, that opened up my understanding about EDCs, its impact on our children’s life and the wish to change European policies. Although I have never met Theo, I have seen her in interviews and felt connected to her inspirational work. I am sad we have lost such a great mind, but we will continue the fight to protect the next generation - we owe it to Theo and our own children. My thoughts and wishes are with her family and friends.

  9. Annette Hormann:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 04:29 PM

    It is with a heavy heart that I hear the news of this fantastic researcher passing away, since she inspired my work on endocrine disruption. It was her book that was handed to me that made me decided to do research in this field.

    I first met Theo in Colorado on the Roan plateau, and the first words out of her mouth were, "Do you know what you have gotten yourself into?" since at the time we were collecting samples for a project that would later compare the Colorado river with the Missouri river in regards to "fracking in the area". She also liked the receipt paper project idea that had brought me to MU and was good friends with my primary mentors.

    Theo also took several pictures that day, she was a birder much to my surprise and she seemed to have a magnanimous personality! She told us that if we were caught that day and placed in jail she had several media or press agents that were ready to bail us out!

    Luckily it did not come to that and we collected the samples then headed back to Missouri. However not before driving her car since night had fallen and she could not see as well as she used too, talk about pressure if I wrecked it here I was driving the person's car that had inspired my research! She showed me the button start and the back-up camera when she talked about even her car she was vibrant and full of energy!

    I will always remember this inspiring woman and her unending commitment to make a difference in a world where we constantly have to battle apathy. May her family and friends find comfort in this trying time and may their spirits be lifted by the wonderful life "Theo" lived since her legacy will move this field to new horizons in the future and she will live on through her work for many years to come!
    My deepest sympathies,
    Annette Hormann

  10. David E. Blockstein:
    Dec 15, 2014 at 04:20 PM

    Theo Colborn was a recipient of the NCSE Lifetime Achievement Award, a role model and an inspiration, a scientist who followed the evidence wherever it took her, a profile in courage who was excoriated by the chemical industry and their supporters for her path breaking research in endocrine disrupters, a passionate environmentalist and advocate for human health, a humble gentle woman with a heart of gold and a backbone of steel, and someone who I am proud to have called a friend.

    Theo lived a long, eventful, and accomplished life. May her example continue to shine and may her memory be for a blessing

    David


    David E. Blockstein, Ph.D. Founding Executive Secretary, Council of Environmental Deans and Directors Senior Scientist National Council for Science and the Environment 1101 17th St. NW #250 Washington DC 20036 202-207-0004 direct 202-530-5810 general 202-628-4311 fax Turn on Javascript!" rel="nofollow">Turn on Javascript! www.ncseonline.org

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