Saturday, March 10, 2018
A Three-Career Conversationalist
Fabian Franklin, a man with a name that sounds like an actor’s, had three very different careers, none of them on the stage.
Born in 1853 in Hungary, Franklin came to this country in 1857. When he was only 11 years old, he won a scholarship to Columbian College, now George Washington University. After graduating in 1869, Dr. Franklin became a civil engineer and surveyor for a railroad and later worked for a city.
However, mathematics was his passion and, in 1877, he switched careers and joined the mathematics department at Johns Hopkins University, teaching, studying and researching until 1895. He earned a doctorate in math there in 1880 and published many papers on mathematical concepts.
It was at Johns Hopkins that Franklin met a unique math student. Christine Ladd, who’d studied at Vassar, had applied for admission to the all-male university under the name, C. Ladd. She was admitted, but when university leaders discovered her sex, they at first limited the courses she could take, but eventually wound up giving her a $500 a year fellowship. She and Franklin, who was five years younger than she, became friends and were married in 1882. Christine Ladd-Franklin went on to become a pioneering woman psychologist and logician who developed the Ladd-Franklin theory of the evolution of color vision.
In 1895, Professor Franklin, who enjoyed writing and admired journalism, switched careers again and became editor of The Baltimore News. After a few years there, he was hired as an editor at The New York Evening Post, retiring in 1917.
He continued to write, producing many articles for periodicals as well as several books, including one on economics and another on Prohibition (which he opposed).
“He was born a journalist by virtue of his passionate interest in the play of contemporary life,” said The New York Times at his death in 1939, adding, “Dr. Franklin was beyond question one of the great conversationalists of our day and worthy to be compared with the giants of the art.”
His wife died in 1930 and about a year later, Dr. Franklin and his daughter, Margaret, bought a home on Barry Avenue. “He was a familiar and striking figure on the streets, his heavy white beard giving him a distinguished appearance,” The Press said in 1939.
At his funeral, the Rev. William B. Lusk, rector of St. Stephen’s, observed, “In the seven years of his residence in Ridgefield, he was continually communicating something of his beautiful spirit of friendliness, kindliness, gentleness, modesty, courtesy, and good will…”
When Lewis J. Finch subdivided the Fabian property in the 1960s, he called the small development “Franklin Heights.”
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