Ladd-Franklin, Christine (1847–1930)

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Ladd-Franklin, Christine (1847–1930)

American logician and psychologist who advocated greater academic opportunities for women. Name variations: Christine Franklin. Born in Windsor, Connecticut, on December 1, 1847; died of pneumonia in New York City on March 5, 1930; daughter of Eliphalet Ladd and Augusta (Niles) Ladd (d. 1860); sister of Henry Ladd and Jane Augusta Ladd McCordia ; half-sister of Kathanne Ladd and George B. Ladd; graduated from the Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts; Vassar College, B.A., 1869; studied at Harvard University in 1872; attended Johns Hopkins University, 1878–82, completing requirements for Ph.D. which was not awarded until 1926; married Fabian Franklin (a mathematician and editor), in 1882; children: a son who died in infancy (b. 1883); Margaret Ladd Franklin (b. 1884).

Taught secondary school; awarded an honorary LL.D., Vassar College (1887); was lecturer in psychology and logic, Columbia University (1910–30).

Selected works:

"The Algebra of Logic" in Studies in Logic by Members of the Johns Hopkins University (1883); "The Reduction to Absurdity of the Ordinary Treatment of the Syllogism" in Science; Color and Color Theories (1929).

Christine Ladd-Franklin, who belongs to the tradition of philosopher-scientists, was born in Windsor, Connecticut, in 1847. Her under-graduate work at the newly opened Vassar College was in languages, physics and astronomy. Although her mother's family was prominent in Connecticut as was her father's in New Hampshire, Ladd-Franklin's education was interrupted by lack of funding. She therefore spent a year in New York City (where she had spent most of her childhood) studying languages and music on her own. A generous aunt helped finance the rest of her education, and in the last year of her studies at Vassar she turned her attention to mathematics. She chose this as a related but less restricted subject after her acute interest in physics had been frustrated by the fact that women were not allowed into the labs.

Ladd-Franklin completed the requirements for a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University in 1882. Although her thesis was significant enough to merit publication by the university in 1883, she would not be awarded her degree until 1926 because women were not officially admitted into the Ph.D. program. She had only been allowed to pursue her studies at this level because Prof. J.J. Sylvester, who admired some of her early papers on mathematics, had secured a fellowship for her.

In 1882, Christine Ladd married Fabian Franklin, a professor of mathematics at Johns Hopkins who would later become editor of the New York Evening Post. The couple would have two children, a son who would die in infancy (b. 1883) and Margaret Ladd Franklin (b. 1884). From the 1890s, she became interested in theories of color perception, particularly color-blindness. Through her lifetime, Ladd-Franklin published a total of over 100 articles on logic and color vision. She is particularly known for contributing to the development of symbolic logic, a system of using mathematical formulas to express the forms of reasoning and argument. As well, Ladd-Franklin devoted a great deal of effort and money toward helping women achieve graduate education.


Gren, Judy. "Christine Ladd-Franklin (1847–1930)" in Women of Mathematics. Edited by Louise S. Grinstein and Paul J. Campbell. NY: Greenwood Press, 1984.

Kersey, Ethel M. Women Philosophers: a Bio-critical Source Book. NY: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Waithe, Mary Ellen, ed. A History of Women Philosophers. Boston, MA: Martinus Nijhoff Publications, 1987–95.

Catherine Hundleby , Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy, University of Western Ontario, Canada

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