Dr. Ursula Franklin (b. September 16, 1921 – d. July 22, 2016) received her Ph.D. in experimental physics at the Technical University of Berlin in 1948. She came to Canada the following year and began a distinguished scientific career in Toronto. In 1967 she joined the University of Toronto’s Department of Metallurgy and Materials Science, becoming a full professor in 1973. Dr. Franklin published more than 70 scholarly papers and major contributions to books on the structure and properties of metals and alloys, and the history and social impact of technology. Her contributions to CBC Radio’s Ideas program included: Democracy, Technology, and Terrorism (1979), Nuclear Peace (1982), The Northern Front (1986), and Complexity and Management (1987). Ursula Franklin’s 1989 Massey Lectures have been published in her book, The Real World of Technology. Dr. Franklin is a Companion of the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and was a board member of the National Research Council and the Science Council of Canada, where she headed the Conserver Society Study. She received honorary degrees from many Canadian universities. In 1984 Ursula Franklin became the first woman to be honoured with the title of “University Professor” by the University of Toronto. In addition to her significant contributions as a scientist, Dr. Franklin was and continues to be known for her achievements as a humanitarian through community activities. She received the Award of Merit for the City of Toronto in 1982, mainly for her contribution to neighbourhood planning. She provided technical advice to community groups on such issues as pollution and radiation. As a Quaker, Ursula was actively involved in work for peace and justice, international understanding, and issues related to women. As an active member of the Voice of Women, and a member of its national council, she was involved in many of the organization’s activities, from coordinating the collection of children’s teeth for strontium-90 radiation measurements in the early 1960s, to co- drafting submissions to the Senate inquiry into science policy. In 1987, Dr. Franklin was awarded the Elsi Gregory McGill Memorial Award for her contributions to education, science, and technology. In 1989, she received the Wiegand Award, which recognizes Canadians who have made outstanding contributions to our understanding of the human dimensions of science and technology. Ursula Franklin’s 1990 award of the Order of Ontario followed her nomination by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, which read:
“Dr. Franklin has made significant contributions to the life of Ontario as a scientist, educator, citizen, and humanitarian. She has enriched the lives of her colleagues, students, and staff that have been privileged to work with her. Her concerns about the quality of all our lives, particularly as they are affected by science and technology, have always been accompanied by action on behalf of those beliefs to help solve problems. She serves as an inspiration to women in society, in the university in general, and especially in the scientific, technological, and engineering fields, where she has been a role model in an environment populated by very few female faculty members. Dr. Franklin is truly an example of someone who lives her convictions, who is not afraid to act on the basis of her beliefs, and whose presence among us helps to make this world a better place to live.”
Ursula Franklin was awarded the Pearson Peace Medal in January 2002, by the United Nations Association in Canada. Upon receiving the Pearson Peace Medal Dr. Franklin included, as part of her acceptance speech:
“Peace is not the absence of war but the absence of fear, presence of justice”.
In 2012 Dr. Franklin was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame, located in Ottawa and co-hosted by Ursula Franklin Academy in Toronto. In 2014 Ursula Franklin was recognized by Status of Women Canada ~ “Women Pioneers: Inspiring Change Through Ongoing Leadership”.
Dr. Franklin’s life, achievements and numerous contributions to our world were publicly honoured at a memorial held at Ursula Franklin Academy on September 29, 2016.