Portrait of Grace Frankland, photogtraph, date unknown (linnean.org)

Portrait of Grace Frankland, photogtraph, date unknown (linnean.org)

Grace Frankland

OCTOBER 5, 2020

Scientist of the Day - Grace Frankland

Grace Coleridge Frankland, an English microbiologist, died Oct. 5, 1946, at the age of 85.  Born Grace Toynbee, she married a bacteriologist, Percy Frankland, who was the son of the notable chemist Edward Frankland.  Beginning in 1887, she co-wrote a number of papers with Percy, and even a book, Micro-organisms in Water (1894), which we have in our collection.  Their first paper, "Micro-organisms obtained from air," was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in 1887; this marked only the third time that the journal had published a paper with a woman as author or co-author.  The first two were Caroline Herschel and Mary Somerville, which is very good company indeed.

Mrs. Franklin later published papers of which she was the sole author, and even a book intended for the general public, Bacteria in Daily Life (1903), a book we do not have in our collections and a deficiency we will try to remedy.  She became a fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society in 1900, and in 1904, she was one of 12 women who were inducted into the Linnean Society of London, the first women granted membership to that learned society.  She was denied membership in the Chemical Society of London in 1904, and she and 10 other women submitted a petition, making the case for admitting women as fellows to the Society.  It was eventually successful, but whether Mrs. Franklin was ever admitted, we have yet to determine.  As one might gather, there is a dearth of scholarship on Grace Frankland.  Although she moved with her husband to Birmingham and then to Dundee, it does not appear that she ever held an academic position.

The Linnean Society of London recently mounted an exhibition honoring the first female inductees of 1904, on the occasion of the 230th anniversary of the Society.  It included a lovely and seldom-seen photographic portrait of Mrs. Franklin, which we have used as our opening image.  We also include a plate from Micro-organisms in Water (second image), and link to the title page, where she is credited as Mrs. Percy Frankland.  I don’t think it has ever been noticed that Mrs. Frankland drew the plates for Micro-organisms in Water, so we include a detail of our second image, where you can see “G.C. Frankland del,” the “del” meaning “drawn by” (third image).

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor emeritus, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to ashworthw@umkc.edu.