Ursula Franklin is a physicist and philosopher, who has written on the political and social impacts of technology on society. Born in Munich to a Jewish mother, Franklin was held in a labour camp during the Second World War and her parents were sent to a concentration camp. Remarkably, they all survived the Holocaust and were reunited in Berlin after the war.
Attracted by the objectivity of science, Franklin completed a Ph.D. in experimental physics at the Technical University of Berlin in 1948 before moving to Toronto the next year. Throughout her career, Franklin participated in many humanitarian and social justice campaigns. She argued for pacifism, environmental conservation, and the equal rights of women.
In 1967, Franklin was the first woman appointed to the University of Toronto’s Department of Mining and Metallurgy in the Faculty of Engineering. She pioneered archaeometry, the application of scientific techniques to analyze archaeological materials. Working with Voice of Women (VOW), her research on levels of strontium-90 (a radioactive isotope found in nuclear fallout) in children’s teeth contributed to the end of atmospheric weapons testing.
Franklin is the recipient of more than a dozen honorary doctorates and numerous civic and academic honours. In 1992, she was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.
“The safest have to look after the least safe. There’s no other way of doing things.”