Theodor (Ted) Sterling was born and raised in Vienna, Austria. In 1940, he and his family fled to the United States to escape the threat of Nazism. They were completely impoverished, and Ted took work where he could find it, then enlisted in the U.S. Army. Following World War II, he returned to school, finishing grades nine to 12 in one year. By 1955, he had two degrees from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from Tulane, soon followed by academic appointments at Alabama, Michigan and Cincinnati.
In 1972, Ted joined SFU, established the Computer Science department, and served as its first chair. Seeing the potential of computers for academic research, Ted was among the first in the fields of epidemiology and risk analysis to use the technology in analyses of massive public health databases.
However, Ted was no stranger to controversy. He was aware of the potential threats computing technology could pose to individual privacy and was among the first to warn the public of these dangers.
In addition to many fellowships and awards from various professional societies, Ted also received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from SFU in 2001. After a decade of battling the effects of Parkinson’s disease, Ted died of pneumonia on January 26, 2005, in Vancouver.