Ursula Franklin General Physics, Subatomic Particles, Optics, Biophysics, Theoretical Physics

Pioneered the physics of ancient archeological materials

"Peace is not the absence of war but the absence of fear."

The Story

Franklin acquired her PhD in experimental physics from Technical University in Berlin, then joined the Ontario Research Foundation as senior scientist. She has taught and researched extensively in the field of materials science and in the area of the social impact of technology. Much of her work has been done in conjunction with archaeologists on ancient materials; she pioneered the development of archaeometry, which applies the modern technique of materials analysis to archaeology. To determine the effect of fallout from testing nuclear weapons, she worked on gathering and analysing data on the strontium-90 accumulation in the teeth of children in Canada.

In 1967, Franklin became the first woman Professor of Metallurgy and Materials Science at the University of Toronto, and in 1984 she was the first woman appointed University Professor, U. of T.’s highest rank. Retired from U. of T. in 1989, she continues to work as senior resident and fellow of Massey College and is an active public speaker on the effects of technology on society, a topic addressed in her book The Real World Technology (1999).

Sources: Canadian Forum, excerpted from The Real World of Technology by CBC Enterprises, 1990; Canadian Who’s Who 1994; The Canadian Encyclopedia 1988; Our Great Minds; Image Source: University of Toronto’s “Our Great Minds” website.

As A Young Scientist...

While in her young 20s attending university in Berlin, Franklin was imprisoned by the Nazis because her mother was Jewish. She spent 18 months in a work camp.

The Person

September 16, 1921
Munich, Germany
Date of Death
July 22, 2016
Place of Death
Toronto, Ontario
Family Members
  • Two children and several grandchildren
Other Interests
Pacifist, feminist, and Quaker. Founded the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace.
Physicist; Metallurgiest; University Professor Emeritus of Metallurgy and Materials Science and Director of Collegium Archaeometricum
University of Toronto
  • PhD (Experimental Physics), Technical University of Berlin
  • Companion of the Order of Canada, 1992
  • Officer, Order of Canada
  • Governor-General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case, 1991
Last Updated
July 24, 2016

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