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Ursula Franklin Speaks

Ursula Franklin Speaks: Thoughts and Afterthoughts

Ursula Martius Franklin
in collaboration with Sarah Jane Freeman
Edited by Sarah Jane Freeman
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Ursula Franklin Speaks
    Book Description:

    As a distinguished scientist, pacifist, and feminist, Ursula Franklin has been regularly invited by diverse groups to share her insights into the social and political impacts of science and technology. This collection contains twenty-two of Franklin's speeches and five interviews from 1986 to 2012 that have been retrieved and restored from audio and visual recordings with the help of her collaborator, Jane Freeman. These speeches and interviews, available here in print for the first time, stress the increased need for discernment and principled dialogue among Canadians. Although civic life for many Canadians has changed drastically in the past five decades, the basic principles of building and maintaining peaceful communities remain unchanged. Addressing practices of education, research, and civic life, Franklin looks to the past as well as the future to suggest collective ways of cultivating discernment and of advancing human betterment. As a whole, the collection reveals the evolution of Franklin's perspective: a perspective that is further elaborated in her afterthoughts that form the book's introduction and conclusion. Although her speeches and interviews are often critical of the status quo, Ursula Franklin Speaks is a fundamentally optimistic book, grounded in the conviction of the human capacity for compassion and understanding.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9200-1
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Preface: The How and Why of This Book
    (pp. 3-5)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 6-13)

    Ursula Martius Franklin is well known and much admired in Toronto, Ontario, and Canada. Described by June Callwood as one of Canada’s “national treasures,” Ursula Franklin is a Holocaust survivor who came to Canada from Berlin in 1949. A highly respected physicist, feminist, pacifist, and public intellectual, she was the first woman at the University of Toronto to be named a University professor. By facilitating the collection of baby teeth in the early 1960s in order to determine their strontium-90 content, she helped provide the evidence needed to pass the treaty banning atmospheric nuclear tests. Through her investigation of ancient...


    • 1 Interview with June Callwood (National Treasures, Vision tv, season 4, episode 11, 29 November 1994)
      (pp. 14-28)
      June Callwood and UF

      Jc: Every Canadian can make a list of national treasures, and what I think those lists would have in common is that the people we admire most are people who live a life of responsibility for others. The human race wouldn’t have survived very long if most of us weren’t opposed to what Gandhi described as “untruth, injustice and humbug.” In this series you’ll meet some of the people that I think exemplify a useful life, a well-lived life– the givers, the treasures.

      Dr Ursula Franklin is an amazing woman. She is an intellectual of international standards, a physicist at...


    • 2 When the Seven Deadly Sins Became the Seven Cardinal Virtues (Acceptance speech on receiving the ywca Women of Distinction Award, Toronto, 1986)
      (pp. 29-35)

      I would like to begin with a few historical reflections because it behoves us to see where the roots of our activities and concerns come from. It is really of interest to see how closely the movements for women’s rights, for peace, and for social change have historically been linked.

      I would like to take you back to the earlier part of the nineteenth century. Through the almost 150 to 200 years of the developing Industrial Revolution, women had come into a very different social setting and had become a very strong force in their respective communities. That was a...

    • 3 The Legacies of War (Keynote address, Voice of Women Conference, Ottawa, 1990)
      (pp. 36-42)

      Thirty years ago, when the Voice of Women (vow) entered into the arena of public discussion, peace was on everybody’s mind. We had the effects of nuclear testing, and world peace was a subject of discussion much more than it is today. For many of us in Voice of Women, our preoccupation throughout the decades has been the issue of peace, and one can rightfully ask what it is that occupies us today.

      I want to maintain that it still is, in fact, the issue of peace that brings us together. I want to reinforce that peace is not the...

    • 4 Coexistence and Technology: Society between Bitsphere and Biosphere (Polanyi Lectures, Concordia University, Montreal, 1994 and 1995)
      (pp. 43-55)

      This paper is an amalgamation of two Polanyi Lectures by Dr Franklin, given in March 1994 and 1995 respectively, at Concordia University. Both addresses were given to an audience well acquainted with the work of Karl Polanyi and fully cognizant of the politics and issues of the Cold War era. In considering these talks for publication Dr Franklin realized that present-day readers may not be similarly prepared. She decided to step back from the more detailed arguments intended for the participants of the Polanyi Conferences and to combine, in one paper, the fundamental considerations advanced in the original presentations, as...

    • 5 Canada and Social Justice (An address given to Companions of the Holy Cross at a Retreat of Anglican Women in 1997)
      (pp. 56-63)

      I have been asked to talk about “Canada and Social Justice,” and I’d like to make this as informal as possible. Please feel free to interrupt at any time. There’s no point if I lose you in the first five minutes and then keep on going for another fifty, so please interrupt. When I noted this down I was thinking of the emphasis in your case statement on intersessional prayers. I can only say if you feel free to interrupt God, for heaven’s sake feel free to interrupt me.

      In terms of the emphasis on social justice in Canada, I’d...

    • 6 A Drive to Know: The Glory and Hell of Science – Reflections in Memory of Jacob Bronowski (The Jacob Bronowski Memorial Lecture, New College, University of Toronto, 29 March 2000)
      (pp. 64-72)

      Jacob Bronowski died in 1974. In the intervening years much has happened, and both personal and institutional memories have faded. I would like to use the time I have with you not only to reflect on science and human values as Bronowski would have done but also to see them through the biography and life of Jacob Bronowski. Although I’m quite aware I probably bit off a bit more than I can chew in my title, I would like to consider the three strands in the title: the drive to know, the glory and hell of science, and Jacob Bronowski....

    • 7 Thinking about Technology (A public “University Lecture,” University of Toronto, 2004)
      (pp. 73-83)

      This lecture is an honour for me, and I’m intending to use it to honour someone else. Please regard this lecture as my tribute to James Ham, formerly dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, royal commissioner, president of the University of Toronto, and someone who spent his life thinking and teaching about technology in a most exemplary way. If I can pay a small tribute to him in this lecture, it would be most gratifying for me.

      I’ll spend some of our time on definitions. Partly for the sake of clarity and partly because I would very...

    • 8 The Holy and the Microscope: Conversations between Faith and Knowledge (Guest lecture, given at the Newman Centre in the University of Toronto, Toronto, 2007)
      (pp. 84-88)

      My connection with this community has been a very strong and positive force in my own life, and I come back with great thanks and pleasure. I called this talk “The Holy and the Microscope” because I want to put to you something very different from what you would normally hear. It is a perspective nature brings us.

      I would like to give you the thought that the increase in knowledge that undoubtedly has come to us – through science, through the world of learning, through the thinking that is as essential to people as every breath they take –...

    • 9 Reflecting on the Second Wave of Feminism: 1960–2010 (Taped at Massey College at the University of Toronto for a symposium in Ottawa on the History of the Canadian Women’s Movement, 2008)
      (pp. 89-93)

      I’m grateful for the chance to share my views with you. There are three main strands in our common experience that I would like to emphasize. The first and main strand, that I cannot overemphasize, is the importance of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada (1970) for the overall shaping not only of the Canadian women’s movement but also of the international women’s movement.

      This first strand consists of three components of the original call for the Royal Commission that are hard for our younger sisters now to see. I’d like to go back to Kay...


    • 10 Ursula Franklin Interviewed by Mary Hynes (Tapestry, cbc Radio, 4 February 2007)
      (pp. 94-107)
      Ursula Franklin and Mary Hynes

      Mh: Once there was a physicist. She worked very hard to gain her place in the world at a time when to be a woman in a laboratory was to be a rare specimen indeed. She was a great success. But this physicist came to realize something troubling about her work; simply put, it could be used in the cause of war – still a brilliant career, perhaps, but for this woman, no way. So she walked away. She applied herself instead to the physics of archaeological finds, becoming a pioneer in the field, and somewhere along the way she...


    • 11 In Conversation with Two Grade 10 Students at the Ursula Franklin Academy, 1997
      (pp. 108-114)

      This interview was conducted in preparation for a class project. Ursula was wearing a microphone, so her answers were audible on the tape, but the students’ questions were not. We include this interview here as a prototype of the many informal interactions she had with young people throughout her life. The intimate setting of these conversations provided a mode of interaction that is not possible through public, formal appearances, and her responses to the students’ questions regarding her early life and training include biographical material not available elsewhere.

      One of the things I have to be forever grateful for is...

    • 12 Using Technology as if People Matter (Opening plenary of SciMaTech 96, delivered at the Cowichan Campus of Malaspina College, Duncan, bc, 1996, to teachers who were working to better integrate and enhance the teaching of science, math, and technology in their curricula)
      (pp. 115-124)

      Thank you for inviting me. I come to you as a colleague and a friend with no pretences to know either more or better how to deal with the problems we all need to address. Technology is a subject bigger than any of us, and it’s worth considering together. The way we think about technology is fundamental because it reflects what we think about people, about society, and about the way in which people live together.

      My aim is clarity. We live in a time in which many different words and ideas are used to try to describe complex situations,...

    • 13 Developing a Li of Massey (Acceptance speech, Massey College’s 40th Anniversary Awards, University of Toronto, 2004)
      (pp. 125-126)

      It is a great privilege for me to speak on behalf of my fellow award winners and to thank all who have been part of conceiving of this honour. Probably the first reaction for each of us, when learning of this honour, was the question “Why me?” Certainly I can think of many within the Massey community who could rightfully stand in my place tonight, and my fellow award recipients assure me their response has been just the same.

      We are thus here, not as much as “Exhibit A,” but as a delegation that happened to be in town and...

    • 14 Three Lessons from the Natural World (Convocation address, McGill University, Montreal, 2006)
      (pp. 127-129)

      Friends, first and foremost, let me thank you for the singular honour you have extended to me. Congratulations to all of you who are graduating today, as well as to your families and teachers. I am very happy to speak to a Science convocation because the practice of science, the daily work in the lab, has been the source of so much pleasure and fulfillment in my own life. Allow me to speak about common insights that have come from the advances of science, both recent and traditional. These insights have come from all the diverse disciplines within the sciences....

    • 15 The Place of Knowledge in Our Personal and Collective Lives (Convocation address, Ryerson University, Toronto, 2012)
      (pp. 130-132)

      Let me give you my thanks for the honour and great privilege of receiving this citation and degree from a university that is so true to its own mission. Let me congratulate the graduates and their families. I would so much like to tell you how much I want to rejoice with you in your achievement.

      Over and above the privilege of receiving this Honorary Degree, to be part of the convocation of this School of Continuing Education is something I profoundly value. We all are on the same journey, but to be with you knowing you have sought out...


    • 16 Interview with Dr Tarah Brookfield (Interview conducted at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, 2010)
      (pp. 133-142)
      Tarah Brookfield and UF

      Tb: I’m interested in your involvement in the early 1960s in relation to the studies about fallout, and your role with Voice of Women (vow).

      Uf: You see the crucial role of fallout in the development and coalescence of vow: a group of women who came together in response to the editorial Lotta Dempsey wrote inThe Toronto Starabout the difficulty of getting an atmospheric test ban and the likelihood of even more fallout from testing that was being done in the fear of another war. It was very clear at the time that this was not a private...


    • 17 Peace: A Necessity for an Equal Society (The closing speech of An Equal Society: Into the Year 2000 – a conference presented by the Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues with the Provincial, Federal, and Territorial Status of Women Councils, Toronto, 4 November 1986)
      (pp. 143-148)

      There are advantages and disadvantages to being the last speaker of a conference. The disadvantage is that most things that need to be said have already been said; the advantage is that one has accumulated a list of comments that may not have come to mind had one been speaking at the beginning of the conference. In that category are two things I want to mention that relate to my main theme.

      The first item is the problem of social structures. We work in social and political structures that are very often not of our making. We have to understand...

    • 18 Educating Engineers for the Modern World (The Seventh Annual J.W. Hodgins Memorial Lecture, McMaster University, Hamilton, 1990)
      (pp. 149-158)

      I would like to begin by saying how very honoured I feel to give this lecture, and how very much I hope that what I say will be acceptable in the spirit of the work Dean Hodgins did. Discussions on future directions in engineering – both engineering practice and engineering research – build historically on Dean Hodgins’s work and on the approach that the best of engineers took in the 1970s and 1980s when they wrestled with how the young in this field ought to be trained.

      We all know the world has changed, and that dimensions of the social...

    • 19 Monocultures of the Soil, Monocultures of the Mind: Cautionary Tales from the Mechanization of Agriculture (Keynote address, 8th Wendy Michener Symposium for The Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans, York University, Toronto, 21 October 1994)
      (pp. 159-170)

      Thank you, friends. I’m always amazed at these introductions and wonder two things: “Is that really me?” and “Am I alive, or is that an obituary type of thing that one only says for people who are dead or nearly dying?” I am alive, I assure you. Whether I live up to the billing will be up to you.

      I want to emphasize a point made in the introduction. My base discipline is physics. I’m basically a crystallographer, and one of the things that has always interested me, and that is in a sense the red thread through most of...

    • 20 The How and Why of Communication: Orienteering in Cyberspace (The Southam Lecture, given to The Canadian Communication Association, McMaster University, Hamilton, 1996)
      (pp. 171-178)

      My talk today is entitled “The How and Why of Communication: Orienteering in Cyberspace.” If you were to look up “orienteering,” the dictionary would tell you it is a sport that combines cross-country running with navigation by map and compass. Now if it is your mind rather than your legs that do the cross-country running, in this day and age you may still very badly need navigation by map and compass to know what’s front and back, and possibly even why it is that you are running. It’s those questions of the how and why of communication that I would...

    • 21 Technology as Social Instruction (Conference keynote address, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, 23 March 1998)
      (pp. 179-186)

      Thank you very much for coming. What I hope to do tonight is to help increase our discernment, our critical assessment, of what is going on around us – be it from a political, personal, or ecological perspective – and I want to do that by talking about technology. I have always been interested in technology because I think it is important what peopledo. Be it historically or contemporarily, I have always found it much more interesting to find out what peopledorather than what theysay, and most things peopledoare done together. While every one...

    • 22 Research, Policy, and Action: Working for Justice through Integrated Research (Research in Women’s Health Conference, Ottawa; Dr Franklin’s keynote recorded at Massey College, University of Toronto, 1999)
      (pp. 187-191)

      Good morning, friends. I consider it a real privilege to be slated for the beginning of this conference, and I’m particularly happy that the focus of the conference is women’s health in the broadest possible sense of the word, meaning not only physical or economic health but also the social, political, and spiritual health and wellbeing of women, both individually and collectively. While the conference will focus on equity and gender issues, the suggested designs and measures that come forward must be applicable to all forms of injustice, to all manifestations of inequality.

      Health for me is both an individual...

    • 23 What Is at Stake?: Universities in Context (Canadian Association of University Teachers, Ottawa, 1999)
      (pp. 192-196)

      I have worked in and around universities long enough to appreciate their context and complexities. I know too that they are important parts of every society, and that we are here because we are deeply concerned about the changes we witness in Canada’s social fabric and in the university’s place within it.

      There are things that are easier to do and say when one is old and no longer has job or reputation to lose, and this certainly holds true for those associated with universities. Throughout the years, the vision of tenure has been a contribution to self-censorship as well...

    • 24 Research as a Social Enterprise: Are We Asking the Right Questions? (The Royal Society Lecture, sponsored by the Royal Society of Canada’s Women in Scholarship Committee and the Office of the Vice-President (Research), Carleton University, Ottawa, 6 November 2002)
      (pp. 197-207)

      Thank you all. I’m happy to see all of you, and as it is becoming I hope the younger ones will give their seats to the older ones. Although this isn’t the subway, I’m afraid it will be a bit of a ride. I’d like to thank you all for coming because I know that time is the ultimate of nonrenewable resources; no one can give you back the hour or two that you are giving me in trust. I can only assure you that I will try not to misuse your trust and see to it that this hour...

    • 25 The However Paragraph (Guest lecture, The Toronto Congress of the Canadian Association of Physicists, Toronto, 2010)
      (pp. 208-212)

      Let me thank you not only for your very generous introduction but most of all for your presence. The fact that you have chosen to give me an hour of your time is a gift I respect and cherish profoundly. Time is, after all, the most precious of all nonrenewable resources. No one can give back to you the hour you are now giving to me. I will try to use this gift responsibly and respectfully, as one has to use all nonrenewable resources.

      I will take an approach to the subject of Women in Physics that may be somewhat...

    • 26 Reflections on Public Health and Peace: Ask How Are You? NOT Who Are You? (The Dr Zofia Pakula 2012 Inaugural Lecture, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Global Health Division, University of Toronto, 26 November 2012)
      (pp. 213-220)

      I am really quite overwhelmed not only by the size but by the quality of the audience. There are so many people who could sit here in my place and have a great many valuable contributions to make on those questions we all would like to address – What about peace? What about public health? I hope you will talk to each other as much as you can, because it is not only a very urgent but also a totally collective struggle as we try and think: how on Earth do we proceed from here?

      I feel honoured to give...


    • 27 An Interview with Anna Maria Tremonti (The Current, cbc Radio, 6 May 2010, recorded at the Toronto studio)
      (pp. 221-227)
      Anna Maria Tremonti and UF

      Amt: After decades of pushing for social justice, Ursula Franklin is just getting started. Ursula Franklin is a Canadian giant – a world-renowned physicist, feminist, Quaker, author, pacifist, professor, Holocaust survivor, public intellectual, mother, and mentor. Ursula Franklin is with me in Toronto. Good morning.

      Uf: Good morning, and thanks for having me.

      Amt: You have been working for peace and social justice for decades. You have lived through a World War, through the rise of nuclear weapons, the end of the Cold War, the spread of pollutants. What is your primary concern as you look around you

      Uf: It’s...

  13. Afterthoughts
    (pp. 228-238)
    Ursula Martius Franklin and Sarah Jane Freeman

    While preparing this book, it has been my great privilege to spend many hours with Ursula. As we worked to restore and select these speeches for publication, the insights she shared were often so extraordinary that I asked her if I could record some of our conversations in order to inform the introduction and conclusion of the book. Since the leitmotif of the collection is thoughts and afterthoughts, we felt it appropriate to share with readers some of the recent afterthoughts that Ursula expressed in our conversations. While the excerpts in the introduction are broad, those here touch on specific...

  14. Appendix: Speeches Clustered by Theme
    (pp. 239-242)
  15. Index
    (pp. 243-256)