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Dr. Christine Ladd-Franklin
 
Researched and written by:  Efua Tara Baidoo
 
I attest that the following biography is a product of my own original work.

Biography
 
     On December 1st 1847, in Windsor, Connecticut, Christine Ladd was born. Her 

parents were Elephalet Ladd and Augusta (Niles) Ladd. Sometimes known as kitty, she 

was the oldest of three children. She had a brother named Henry Ladd and a sister named , 

Jane Augusta Ladd McCordia.Christine was attending women’s rights lectures with her 

mother but, due to pneumonia, Augusta’s life was cut short along with Christine’s 

attendance at the lectures (Ragsdale). This might have been the background training that 

motivated Christine to continue the fight for equal rights for women in the academic and 

professional fields throughout her life( Furumoto & Scarborough, 1987). Her father’s 

remarried, which caused Christine to have two half- siblings named Katherine and 

George Ladd. ( Gale Group, 2002) After the death of her mother, Christine moved to 

Portsmouth, New Hampshire to stay with her father’s family. She graduated as a 

valedictorian of her class from Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts 

following the same track of courses as the boys who were being prepared for Harvard. 

After graduating, Christine followed her dream of attending Vassar College with the help 

of convincing her grandmother that it was the best decision since she felt as if she had a 

slim chance at marriage ( Gale Group, 2002). With the help of her aunt on her mother’s 

side (Juliet Mills), her Vassar education was supported. In 1866, Christine entered Vassar 

College, but ended up withdrawing out after one year, because of financial difficulties. 

She returned back to Vassar in 1868 and graduated in 1869 with a B.A degree. Since 

there were no graduate laboratories open to women in physics, she devoted herself 

instead to mathematics and published a number of short mathematical papers. She tried in 

1876 to get admission as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University but women were 

not admitted. J.J Sylvester, an English mathematician at Johns Hopkins already started to 

review and notice her published work. He asked Johns Hopkins to give her 

admission( Gale Group, 1998). About three years later, she met the criteria’s to be given 

a degree but was denied ( http://web.sau.edu).

            On August 24th, 1882, Christine Ladd got married to Fabian Franklin, a professor 

of mathematics at Johns Hopkins ( Gale Group, 2002). They had two children, of which 

one died at infancy and one survived into adulthood. Her name was Margaret 

Franklin( Scarborough, 1987). From 1878 to 1882, Christine Ladd-Franklin studied at 

Johns Hopkins where she came up with her thesis, entitled The Algebra of Logic, which 

she published. In 1886, Ladd-Franklin moved from mathematics to psychology with her 

focus on the theory of vision. She connected separate images into one, which required 

both mathematics and psychology. She later she concentrated on color vision. Her 

interest in this area began with a study in 1887 of the horpoter, which is the locus of 

points in external space whose images are so formed on the retinas of the two eyes that 

they are seen singly in binocular vision. This was published in the American Journal of 

Psychology’s first volume.

             In 1887, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin received honorary LL.D degree from 

Vassar College. In 1891-92, after her husband took a sabbatical, she accompanied him to 

Europe, where she went to study in Germany and continued her research in Professor G.E. 

Muller’s laboratory in Gottingen.Then went to Berlin where she worked with Hermann 

Von Helmholtz and the lectures of Professor Arthur konig (Gale Group, 2002). After 

working closely with  these three men, she basically disagreed with all three men and 

came up with her own theory for color vision (http://web.sau.edu). She tried to present 

her theory to Titchener and the experimentalist group, but it did not work out because 

Titchener did not allow women into the group because he loved to smoke cigars and felt 

that women were to pure for the smell of cigars( http://web.sau.edu).  In 1892, she 

introduced her theory of color vision to the International Congress of Psychology in 

London( http://web.sau.edu). Her theory of color vision involved a photochemical model 

of the visual system and proposed three levels of molecular differentiation, which she 

assumed to correspond to stages of evolutionary development. She said that black-white 

differentiations occurred in the first stage. White became differentiated into blue-yellow 

hues in the second, and finally yellow differentiated into red-green in the third( Gale 

Group, 2002).

            In 1893, she requested a position at Johns Hopkins to lecture and was denied. Still, 

Ladd-Franklin did her independent work. In 1901 to 1905, she held a position of 

associate editor for logic and philosophy in Baldwin’s Dictionary of Philosophy and 

Psychology. In 1904, she was finally given admission to teach in logic and also 

psychology Johns Hopkins until 1909 ( Oakes, 2002). In 1895, Christine’s husband left 

the career of teaching mathematics to pursue a new career in journalism. In 1910, her 

husband accepted a position in New York as an associate editor of the New York evening 

Post. This allowed Ladd-Franklin to accept a position at Columbia University lecturing 

part-time until 1913. In 1913, she lectured at Clark University, Harvard University and at 

University of Chicago in 1914. She mostly lectured without pay. In 1929, Dr. Ladd-

Franklin received her Ph.D from Johns Hopkins after 44 years of being denied. She 

published in 1929 a collection of her principal writings on Colour and Colour 

Theories( http://web.sau.edu). 

            On March 5th 1930, in New York, at her Riverside Drive home, at the age of 

eighty-two, Christine Ladd-Franklin died of pneumonia ( Gale Group. 2002). 

( Psychology Today,2001)  Dr. Ladd-Franklin was best known for her work on Color

vision and also her development of the Ladd-Franklin theory, which focused on the 

evolutionary development of increased differentiation in color vision and assumed a 

photochemical model for the visual system. Christine Ladd-Franklin, will also be 

remembered as an activist for women’s rights to become part of E.B Tichener’s 

experimentalist group, even though she herself did not get in. She is also 

remembered for her earlier woks and contributions to mathematics, which were

researching the problems of symbolic logic, which she reduced syllogistic reasoning to an 

inconsistent triad with the introduction of the antilogism. The antilogism was a form that 

made the testing of deduction easier. She also published her principal works in 1883 

called The Algebra of Logic, The Nature of Color Sensation in (1925) and Colour and 

Colour Theories (1929). For seventeen years, as an advocate for women’s suffrage and 

access to higher education and helped to administer the Sarah Berliner fellowship to 

support recent Ph.D. women in their research.  Against the odds of her social position, 

opposition from universities and individual psychologists, she has been well remembered 

by historians of women psychologists but sometimes her place in history of psychology is 

forgotten. Dr. Christine Ladd-Franklin, a logician and psychologist made an impact in the 

lives of many people ( Gale Group, 2002).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

References
 
    Almanac of famous people, 6 th ed. Gale Research, 1998. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2002. (http:www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRc/hits?c=1&b=&docType=Additional+Resources…)

    Notable Mathematicians. Gale research,1998.Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: the Gale Group.2002.( http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC)

    Oaks, Elizabeth h. “Ladd-Franklin, Christine” Encyclopedia of World Scientists. New York, NY: Facts On File, inc., 2001. Facts On File. Inc. Science Online. ( www.fpweb.com/Susscription/Science/Helicon.asp?)

    Ragsdale, S. Christine Ladd-Franklin. ( http://webster.edu/~woolflm/christineladd.html)

    World Wide Web: http//web.sau.edu/psychology/history%20of%20Psychology%2001/History%20of%20Ps…

    World Wide web: http://www.agnessscott.edu/riddle/women/ladd.htm

    World wide web: Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: the Gale Group. 2002. (http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC)

    World Wide Web: http:www.galenet.com/images/biorc/pitbig/00027311.jpg
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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