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Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, during the height of Apartheid, Colin Soskolne’s first-hand exposure to social injustice had a lasting impact on his life course. After obtaining his BSc (1970) and BSc Honours (1971) degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, he worked successively for the South African Human Sciences Research Council and then the Medical Research Council.
Thanks to research and teaching fellowships, he went on to obtain his PhD (Epidemiology) from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982. His award-winning doctoral dissertation led, in 1991, to the IARC designation of occupational exposures to strong-inorganic-acid mists containing sulfuric acid as a definitive human carcinogen. While extending his doctoral work post-PhD at Ontario Cancer Care and the University of Toronto (1982–1985), his academic career included HIV/AIDS research and education. Subsequently, relocating to the University of Alberta in 1985, his interests expanded to include environmental health more broadly, and then global change, with ethics and philosophy paralleling each line of enquiry.
He pioneered the development of ethics guidelines for the profession, published in 1996 and adopted by ISEE in 1999. Having witnessed injustice as a youth, and with the corrosive influence of powerful interests in science and public policy along the way, he recognized the even greater need for an ethical world—overcoming, with the support of key colleagues, much opposition in moving his ethics-promoting initiatives forward.
After 28 years at the University of Alberta, he retired as Professor emeritus in 2013. He continued with eight years of voluntary service, pursuing, in leadership roles, the International Network for Epidemiology in Policy’s mission of “Integrity, Ethics, and Evidence in Policies Impacting Health.” His career contributions in research, teaching, and service are accessible at www.colinsoskolne.com.