Ursula Franklin: Scientist & Social Activist

By: Brooke Downey

Ursula Franklin was born in Munich, Germany in 1921. As the daughter of a Jewish mother, she and her family were sent to a labour and concentration camps during World War II. After the war ended, Franklin studied experimental physics at the Technical University of Berlin. A year after completing her Ph.D, she moved to Toronto after being offering a fellowship at the University of Toronto.


In 1967, she was the first woman to be appointed to UofT’s department of Mining and Metallurgy in the Faculty of Engineering. Her scientific contributions include pioneering the field of archaeometry, helping to get ban the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere after her research showed the presence of strontium-90 in children’s teeth, and her extensive work in environmental protection.


Franklin’s work both extended beyond science and incorporating her scientific research into her social causes. Much of her work in the field of technology looks at through a scientific and societal lens. She is a committed pacifist, feminist, and social activist with numerous papers and lectures on these topics.
The Ursula Franklin Academy in Toronto is named in her honour.

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Portrait by Emma Jenkin

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