Frank Gerhardt Colby

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

Frank Gerhardt Colby, Ph.D. was an R.J. Reynolds Scientist & Manager of Scientific Information Division at RJR from 1965-79. He was effectively the equivalent of Thomas S Osdene the Science Director at Philip Morris, but he also had the PR and scientific distortion skills of Andrew Whist the great manipulator at PM's Corporate Affairs and he was a very active recruiter of scientific collaborators (Philip Morris left this to the lawyers).

For much of the time he saw Philip Morris as a competitor more than a collaborator. He was mainly a force in Germany where (given his second name) he obviously had the requisite language skills, and RJ Reynolds had a strong business and research interests. Franz X Adlkofer the head of the German Verband (Tobacco Institute equivalent) said that Colby was more lawyer than scientist.

Colby's job description states that, his first responsibility was to: "Efficiently provide the technical expertise necessary for the Company to combat anti-tobacco claims," and so his so-called "scientific" orientation was all in one direction. Colby seems to have been the first to set out the tobacco industry strategy for finding just the right sort of consultants to defend the industry on scientific grounds. This was later extended by Philip Morris through its Whitecoats program.

Colby wrote a note about the importance of having research done in Germany. "To establish relations of mutual trust with leading scientists beyond the grants—as scientific advisors, as a resource to find "witnesses'— if needed—for liability litigations, governmental bodies, etc as a confidential source of information on the activities of our adversaries, etc. To increase the credibility of the Company in its relations with the German Health Ministry and other governmental authorities."

Documents & Timeline

1951 Frank Colby was employed by R.J. Reynolds as head of then-to-be-establishd Scientific Library and Information Division in 1951, as Director of Research Information.

1965-79 Colby was Manager of Scientific Information Division 1965-1979, (another source says Director of Scientific Affairs 1970-80

1980 Jan 22 He became the Associate Director of Scientific Information. He also began cooperating with Philip Morris. He began ringing Ray Fagan, the Head of Research and Development at Philip Morris for scientist-to-scientist chats. Fagan recorded these conversations in a series of handwritten notes-to-file (obviously not trusting him)

  1. He is concerned about the lack of industry effort to counter the growing problem of passive smoking (later called ETS). The Roper report shows that the public perceive passive smoking as harmful. That's bad news. He is going to jack up his companies concern over this issue. Perhaps the Kansas City lawyers (Hoel and Sirridge) are lacksadaisical on the issue. Stakes are too high for the industry not to devote more effort on this.
  2. Was I aware of the Repace (EPA anti-smoking scientist) petition to CAB on particulates. This too is bad news. I told Colby about the piece i the MIT publication on particulates (carbon particles) in airplanes and the study which showed that the non-smoking section had as much particulates as the smoking section. Hence the separation was not effective. (MORE)
  3. (They discuss) a "public smoking" paper which had become a "prestige" fight between Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds, involving lawyers Ed Jacobs, Don Hoel and Mary Covington.
  4. Colby explained that the Verband in Germany is run by a committee of company executives who run it only to prop up the German interests. [2]

1980 Jan 24 Ray Fagan at Philip Morris records another telephone conversation with him, this time about Dr Gio Batta Gori (ex NCI research head - fired over Tobacco Working Group scandal):

  1. Colby called to ask what I though of Gio Gori. I said that I considered Gori an administrator and not a scientist. Colby told me that Gori's friends consider him to be 90% administrator and 10% scientist, while Gori's enemies consider him to be 99% administrator and 1% scientist.

All this was re; leading to telling me that John Wyatt, director of the Tobacco and Health Research Institute at the University of Kentucky died on January 22 ad that Gori was interested in the position.

  1. Colby wanted to know whether I considered Gori a "friend of the industry". [His quotes] I said I did not think he was.
  2. If Gori were put in charge of the Institute at Kentucky it would be a disaster for the industry said Colby. He maintained this because he felt that Gori was not a "friend of the industry" and that Gori was not a good scientist. Colby will use all the influence he can muster to keep Gori out of the job as head of the Institute.
  3. I told Colby that I though the replacement for Wyatt had already been chosen. When it appeared that Wyatt was terminally ill, Ernie Chick was made deputy director of the Institute. My bet is that Ernie will get the job.[3]

1981 Feb 23 The Canadian Trudeau Institute has written to RJ Reynolds asking for a three year grant of $250,000 a year for undefined support of a cancer research program. This is an investigation into immunology, and how the body can be programed to reject tumor formation. [4] [5]

1981 Mar 10 Frank Colby , the primary scientific disinformation executive at RJ Reynolds, has written to his associate Charles Nystrom about the Trudeau Institute research proposal. He is obviously totally cynical as to the real value of the proposed research.

Please have the attached research proposal assessed to the extent feasible, without a major effort, as to soundness and originality within the context of the vast ongoing research on this topic. I am also attaching the results of an Index Medicus author search, We will receive shortly an author and affiliation search with reference to publications by these authors, with reference to smoking - if any. There is no urgency ... [6]

[Nystorm's evaluation of the proposal is legally restricted at [7] However a copy turns up at [8]

He feels that it is relatively useless research but has benefits in goodwill. He would prefer the money to go to a larger research institute or major university. "Trudeau Institute, Inc. appears to be a relatively small organisation and we could expect very little goodwill developed as a result."

[Obviously they saw benefits in dealing with the Trudeau Institute because the archives hold 437 documents that mention their name and a continuing relationship for a couple of decades.(See archive)

1982 July 1 Franz Adlkofer of the Verband (VdC) has called a meeting at Hamburg to discuss issues that have caused friction between the Verband and RJ Reynolds on matters of smoking and health research. Adlkofer said that, compare to Philip Morris, RJR's German operations seemed to be much more dependent on decisions made in the USA. They also gave the impression that they (ie. Colby) "considered the rest of the Verband to be stupid."

Prof . Adlkofer said that he had excellent contact with Dr . Colby whom he held in high esteem for his honesty : "He goes as far as saying that I am in the wrong place" . . . "I know that" . . . "but our exchange of information is excellent, and I get most of my information about the USA from Dr . Colby, who usually is better informed than other sources ." "Unfortunately there is no cooperation when it gets to what I want to achieve: 'a less harmful cigarette' .

He said he knew this situation was different in the US and was beginning to change in the UK. In the long term a situation like the one in the US would be against the interests of Industry . Unfortunately, he said, the US lawyers would do everything possible to maintain that friend-foe relationship between scientists and Industry.

In his mind the open discussion about a "less harmful cigarette" between scientists and Industry has greatly helped Industry in Germany. In this sense he considered Colby more a lawyer than a scientist, and he deplored the confrontation between Colby and Ernest Wynder in Sao Paulo, which in his eyes substantiated his point about the American cigarette industry.[9]

The idea of developing a 'less harmful cigarette' had been part of a vicious battle between the US companies in the early days when the companies thought it might be possible to capture the market by making the breakthrough, then attacking their competitors who were still selling 'cancer sticks', while they alone had the health advantage. Lorillard thought it had won this 'health advantage' when they began using asbestos "Microlite" filters.
Eventually it was realised that this utopian dream was never going to be possible, and that research scientists like Ernest Wynder and Franz Adlkofer were kidding themselves (and everyone else), by using this ideal as a front to live high on the industry funding. The cigarette companies had to spend money like this to supporting this go-nowhere research, simply to satisfy political pressures. The idea lasted longer in Germany than elsewhere.

1983 He transferred over to being employed by the tobacco industry law firm Jacob Medinger & Finnegan as Chief Scientist in 1983.

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