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Dr. Ursula Martius Franklin is a scholar, pacifist and feminist who taught in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. Academically, she is best known for her contributions to engineering and the application of her knowledge in metallurgy and physics to the field of archeology. She is recognized as one of the pioneers of the field of archaeometry, which uses modern material science techniques to investigate ancient artifacts and thus bring greater meaning to archaeological finds. She is responsible for more than a hundred papers and 4 books on a variety of subjects, including engineering, science, physics, feminism, peace, technology, museums, public policy, and faith.
Dr. Franklin was also a very active feminist and pacifist, especially as a Quaker and member of the Voice of Women (VOW). She has been involved in countless efforts by the Canadian peace movement: to promote disarmament, diplomacy and peace, and fight against nuclear warfare, chemical and biological weapons, and the fear that promotes warfare in the first place.
Dr. Franklin is also well known for her work on the social and political implications of technology, as synthesized in her 1989 Massey Lectures, The Real World of Technology, which were broadcast on CBC and later published in 2 editions.
Dr. Franklin was born as Ursula Maria Martius on 16 September 1921 in Munich, Germany. Her mother was Jewish and her father a member of an old German protestant family; both parents were academics. She studied chemistry and physics at Berlin University until she was expelled by the Nazis. Her parents were sent to concentration camps and she was sent to a forced labour camp. The family survived The Holocaust and returned to Berlin. She returned to the university after armistice and received her PhD in Experimental/Applied Physics at the Technical University of Berlin in 1948. She then moved to Toronto on receiving a Lady Davis Fellowship to the University of Toronto. She married Fred Franklin in 1952. They became members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) which remained their spiritual community. They had 2 children: Martin and Monica.
Dr. Franklin worked at the Ontario Research Foundation from 1951-1967, first as a Research Fellow and later as a Senior Research Scientist. She was an Associate Professor (1967-1973), and later Full Professor (1973-1987) in the Department of Metallurgy and Materials Science at the University of Toronto. Dr. Franklin became the first woman to be named University Professor (1984) by the University and became Professor Emerita in 1987. From 1987-1989, she served as Director of the University’s Museum Studies Program. She was named a Fellow of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in 1988 and a Senior Fellow of Massey College in 1989.
Dr. Franklin’s scientific and research expertise has been called on in many capacities, and has always advocated for the social responsibility of the scientist. She was a member of the Science Council of Canada in the 1970s and chaired the study leading to the Council’s Report Number 27: Canada as a Conserver Society. She also served as a Member of the National Research Council of Canada and was one of the members of the newly founded Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
Dr. Franklin has received countless awards and more than two dozen honorary degrees. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (1981), a Fellow in the Royal Society of Canada (1988), Member of the Order of Ontario (1990), a Companion of the Order of Canada (1992), and was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame (2012). Her many awards include the Elsie Gregory McGill Award (1987), Wiegand Award (1989), Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case (1991), the Royal Society’s Sir John William Dawson Medal (1991), the Pearson Medal of Peace (2001), one of Massey College’s first Adrienne Clarkson Laureateships (2004), and the Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012). A Toronto public high school, Ursula Franklin Academy, was named in her honour in 1995.
3 books serve as excellent introductions to Dr. Franklin’s work and ideas: The Real World of Technology (2nd ed. House of Anansi Press Toronto, 1999); The Ursula Franklin Reader: Pacifism as a Map (Between the Lines, 2006); and Ursula Franklin Speaks: Thoughts and Afterthoughts, 1986-2012 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014).