Theodor D. Sterling

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Theodor D. Sterling, PhD (sometimes known as 'Ted' or 'TD') was a professor of statistics and computing who was a life-long servant to the tobacco industry. [Note his name is often misspelled with a final 'e']

Ted Sterling, was an assiduous tobacco industry supporter who worked extensively for the industry while holding down top academic positions (computer science) at three major North American universities -- the University of Washington (St Louis), University of Cincinnatti, and then multiple professorships at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. His consulting businesses flourished in the early days because he had access to mainframe computers at a time when computing power was scarce and costly.

He turned this computer access into a private side-line business via his consulting firm Theodor D. Sterling & Associates (TDSA or TDS Ltd or TDA). He was willing to do any sort of research (not just computing or statistics), so the tobacco industry became a major client, and his services to the cigarette companies grew exponentially. TDS Ltd. eventually entered the occupational hygiene and consulting businesses, and it became large enough to support a couple of assistants Christopher W Collett was the main one) and his eldest son Elia M Sterling, who training in architecture and specialised in air-conditioning installation and inspection.

This is a split entry
See also Sterling Family (Doc Index)
Eldest son     Elia M. Sterling
Youngest son: David A Sterling

Elia later took over as manager and integrated the company into a conglomerate tobacco disinformation business until the legitimate and corrupt activities were almost indistinguishable. TDS Ltd. also servicing the industry by provision experts willing to promote the pro-smoking position at Congressional inquiries, law cases, conferences, and the like, and Elia became a key member of ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration & Airconditioning Engineers) which set air-conditioning standards.

His younger son David A Sterling became an Adjunct Professor and did various research projects for tobacco. He ran a number of studies with Demetrios J Moschandreas at IITRI (Illinois Institute of Technology, Research Institute) a Chicago research establishment, and also with groups from Simon Frazer and the Old Dominion University, Norfolk Virginia, where he became Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Program, in the College of Health Sciences, circa 1990. He received money from the CIAR through their secret 'Special Account #4'.

Theodor Sterling himself was a tobacco industry consultant, mainly in statistics and applied mathematics . He is listed as a consulting scientist for the tobacco industry in 1988 memo Philip Morris 2023034933/4946 from Andrew Whist to R. Murray. He became obscenely wealthy from his work for the tobacco industry (and possible also for other industries), and he eventually owned a high-rise office building in Vancouver. One reference talks about a dinner held in his luxury top-floor penthouse apartment with view over the bay and drinks served by a full-time butler. Sterling always presented the industry's point of view and his companies were secret Council for Tobacco Research Special Project recipients to the tune of about $1 million a year in the early 1990s.

The company ties of Theodor D. Sterling & Associates to the tobacco industry go as far back as 1968/69 and are still operating. The organization claims to be:

"a multi-disciplinary consulting firm providing indoor air quality, environmental and a variety of occupational hygiene & safety consulting services to clients in Canada, the United States and South America." The organization has been known to generate studies and attack evidence on the dangers of second-hand smoke.

See Documents & Timeline

See the Sterling Family (Doc Index) for the index of all the major documents relating to:

  • Theodor D Sterling
  • Theodor D Sterling & Associates
  • Elia M Sterling
  • David A Sterling

Quick Outline of Theodor Sterling

  • Background and education His C/V is provided here [1]

1952 MA from University of Chicago 1955 PhD Tulane University (subject not specified) 1957 He appears in one C/V to have been a graduate student at the University of Michigan. "Instructed in the Department of Statistics Michigan State Universy and Department of Mathematics, University of Alamama.

In his later C/V (In 1981 while at Simon Fraser) he says he has taught at "the following universities: Alaabama, Cincinatti Michigan State, Princeton, and Washington University at St Louis. These do not necessarily appears to be in any date order. Note also that Simon Fraser University appears twice in his C/Vs (72-77) as Chairman, Dept of Computing Science, and later (1979 - ??) as Research Professor, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies and Department of Computing Science.

His CV also lists Government Services; membership of medical and scientific editorial boards; Honors and Awards from professional associations; Chairmanships etc.etc.[2]

1958-66 He Claims to have been Professor of Biostatistics and Director of the Computing Center, College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati. [3]

1965 Mar Theodor Sterling at the University of Cincinnati has made a statement for the tobacco industry before the Senate Committee on Commerce.

  • Existing evidence does not establish and firm causal relationship between smoking and disease.
  • Existing evidence does indicate a number of important problem areas that should receive thorough study
  1. A number of animal studies have attempted to produce lung cancer by means of cigarette smoke, The results of all these studies have been negative.
  2. Epidemiological evidence, based mostly on statistical manipulation, is unclear, conflicting, and in many ways impossible to interpret.
This the association one observes may not be between cigarette smoking and disease but it may be between a certain style of life and disease. [4]

1966-72 He claims to have been at the University of Washington (St Louis), both as:

  • a Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science
  • a Professor in the Department of Sociology (66-68) [5]

1967 Oct Theodor Sterling appears to have begun working for the tobacco industry when commissioned by Kansas City lawyers, Shook Hardy & Bacon to provide commentary on a Morbidity Study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistcs. He has given them some ways to object to the study findings. His comments were welcome by the industry: James Ravlin a lawyer at Brown & Williamson has suggested that it would be good to get him to do further work.

He is willing to testify before the Congress committees that the Morbidity Study is faulty. [6] [7] [8]]

1968 Mar He is 'Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics at Washington University, St Louis, Mo in March 1968 when he agrees to do a "Special Project for Legislative preparation" for a fee of $54,000

1968 April 8 Sterling is sometimes still dealing with his research funding through legitimate channels. He has sent this proposal to the Council of Tobacco Research for a grant of $53,565 which is being handled by William N Papian, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Research at the Washington University, and has "the full endorsement of the University."

His proposal includes both a large and a small "advisory group selected for their reputation in relevant fields". It is an attack on the Public Health Service (PHS) research. [9]

He also sends the Ad Hoc Committee of the tobacco industry the wording of a Statement he intends to make before Congress. [10]

1968-70 He claims to be a Visiting Professor of Computers and Humanities, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio. [11]

1971 Oct 6 Sterling has had a letter published in Nature which had been responded to By Dr Higginson of the World Health Organisation. This, in turn, had been responded to by the Tobacco Institute's favourite statistics lobbyist Marvin A Kastenbaum. The information is circulated by SH&B with a warning not to admit to having seen the correspondence. [12]

1972-77 Claims to have been Chairman, Department of Computing Science, Simon Fraser University. [13]

1978 Claims to have been Visiting Professor, Department of Statistics, Princeton University. [14]
Now Research Professor, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies and Department of Computing Science, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia.

1979 Apr Theodor D Sterling's Continuing Critical Review of Major Factors in Statistical Studies of Smoking & Health introduces Elia Sterling to the tobacco industry. This is a report on his on-going projects for the industry from Simon Fraser University:

  • He has been getting reactions from papers in the Journal of Occupational Medicine (1976) and Medical Journal of Australia (1977)
  • reactions from article "Does Smoking Kill Workers or Does Working Kill Smokers" in the International Journal of Health Services.
  • He is associated with statistical collection by Dr Stell in UK, Dr Arvin S Glicksman (Brown University) and Dr Harold Perry (Sinai Hospital Detroit). This is a retrospective mortality study to unconfound occupation from smoking effects.

• Research on synergism with Dr James J Weinkam (Simon Fraser Uni)

  • Pollution in Enclosed Space research (cigarette smoke is trivial)
* His own publication in Journal of Environmental Research in 1977. Now supplemented by
* Elia Sterling publication in Journal of Architectural Research
* Talk by Elia Sterling in proceedings of Environmental Design Research in Architecture conference in 1979
  • Kitchen pollution (carbon monoxide) paper in Journal of the Air Pollution Control Association (March 1979). Two studies on pollution effects of gas cookers, one with Lawrence Berkeley Labs.)
*planning a review of subject in Journal of Environmental Research
  • Rewriting paper at editorial request on "Statistical Problems in the Use of Sputum Cytology as a Survey Instrument" for the Archives of Pathology
  • article/review of reversals observed in many studies on smoking and CHD. Using observations of Carl C Seltzer (Peabody Museum, Harvard)
  • Statistical analysis of smoking and occupation - sex, race, income , has provided data for...
* errors in estimating smoking prevalence (misclassification) by Dr James J Weinkam.
* smoking as a function of social variables with Professor Laudon. Preparation for Sur-Gen report in 1980.
  • Research on magnetometric techniques - on the in vitro effect of lung viscosity on magnetite particles with Drs Reinstein, Robinson and Alvin SGlicksman.
  • On-going review of relevant literature and experiments - anticipating factors and variables for future work

He now asked for a three-year renewal of his present research budget. "As before, some of the funding and staff will be divided between Simon Fraser University and the Principle Investigator's needs in cooperating with a widely dispersed group of collaborators." [15]

1980 Feb 27 Sterling has requested via SH&B continued funding for his current project until May 1981 He is splitting his fee with Simon Fraser University. He wants $238,460 for himself and $44,670 to the university for computer use and programmer time. The project was previously funded (1977-80) for $600,000.[16]

I am Theodor Sterling, University Research Professor at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia . I have also taught at the following universities: Alabama, Cincinnati,Michigan State, Princeton, and Washington University at St . Louis. I have served as an advisor to the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Science Foundation, the National Security Agency, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Veterans Administration. I am a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Statistical Association . My major professional work concerns the collection and interpretation of scientific data and the design, execution and analysis of experiments and of survey studies. Much of my research has centered on learning about the effects of environmental exposures on the health of animals and men. [17]



1994 June 15 Sterling had been interviewed over the phone by Richard Harris of National Public Radio (NPR) who had documents showing that Sterling had been funded by way of CTR Special Projects. These were secret accounts handled by the Kansas City lawyers Shook Hardy & Bacon. However the CTR's normal annual accounts had not shown any such funding.
Richard Harris had also phoned Patrick Sirridge the main lawyer at Shook Hardy & Bacon (SH&B) seeking comment as to why such massive amounts were handled in secret ... and he was intending to run a report on the surreptitious funding that night. SH&B decided not to cooperate. [18]

1996 April Theodor D. Sterling was exposed as an Industry Consultant and Council for Tobacco Research Special Project recipient. (PMI's Introduction to Privilege Log and Glossary of Names, Estate of Burl Butler v. PMI, et al, April 19, 1996)

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