Sunday, September 9, 2007
Christine Ladd-Franklin (1847-1930)
Christine Ladd was born in Windsor, Connecticut on December 1, 1847. After schooling at Wesleyan Academy in Massachussetts for two years, she entered Vassar College in 1866, but dropped out after one year because of financial difficulties. During the following year she did some teaching and continued her studies in trigonometry, biology, and languages on her own. Her interests in languages allowed her to translate Schiller's Des Madchens Klage into English, which was then published in the Hartford local newspaper. In the fall of 1868 Ladd returned to Vassar, graduating a year later.
It was only after she left college that Ladd began her serious study of mathematics. She published solutions to mathematical problems in the Educational Times of London and the American journal The Analyst, and even studied mathematics at Harvard with W. E. Byerly and James Mills Peirce. With the support of the English mathematician J.J. Sylvester, Ladd was allowed to attend graduate courses in mathematics at Johns Hopkins University despite the fact that the university was not open to women. At Johns Hopkins she developed her interest in symbolic logic, writing a dissertation on The Algebra of Logic and publishing several more articles in The Analyst. However, Johns Hopkins did not allow women to receive the Ph.D. degree, so Ladd left the school in 1882 without that official recognition.
In 1882, Ladd married Fabian Franklin, a member of the Johns Hopkins mathematics department. They had two children, but only a daughter survived into adulthood. Ladd-Franklin continued working on symbolic logic as well as the field of physiological optics. This latter area carried her into research in the optics of color vision, an area in which she worked for thirty-seven years. In 1929 Ladd-Franklin published her collected works on color vision entitled Colour and Colour Theories.
Ladd-Franklin received many honors during her life. She was a lecturer on logic and pyschology for five years at Johns Hopkins University and for over fifteen years at Columbia University. She received an honorary LL.D. degree in 1887 from Vassar College and in 1926 was finally awarded a doctorate from Johns Hopkins, forty-four years after the completion of her dissertation. Throughout her life she championed the cause of graduate education and academic employment for women. For 17 years she helped to administer the Sarah Berliner fellowship to support recent Ph.D. women in their research. Christine Ladd-Franklin died of pneumonia in New York City on March 5, 1930. [Adapted from Biographies of Women Mathematicians Web Site, Agnes Scott College]
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