M. Gertrude Rand was born on October 29, 1886 in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Cornell University in 1908 with a Bachelor's degree in experimental psychology. Three years later, she earned her Master's and Doctoral degrees in psychology from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.
When she married Clarence Ferree in 1918, they began doing research on how lighting affects how people see color. Gertrude served on the National Research Council's Committee on Industrial Lighting from 1924-1927. Gertrude and her husband then accepted positions at the Wilmer Opthalamological Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland. Gertrude held positions of associate professor of research ophtalmology, associate professor of physiological optics and associate director of the research laboratory in physiological optics while working in Johns Hopkins University. They remained there until her husband's death in 1943.
While at Johns Hopkins Gertrude worked on the design for lighting the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River between New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey. She also developed vision standards for airplane pilots and ship lookouts during World War II. From 1943 to her retirement in 1957, Gertrude was a research associate at the Knapp Foundation of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.
In 1952, she became the first female fellow of the Illuminating Society of North America. Gertrude received the society's Gold Medal award in 1963 in recognition of her contributions to the body of knowledge about the interactions between lighting and vision. In 1959, Gertrude was the first woman to receive the Optical Society of America's Edgar D. Tillyer Medal in recognition of distinguished work in the field of vision.
Gertrude Rand died June 30, 1970 in Stony Brooke, New York.