Barry French

Title: Barry French fonds

Date(s) of creation: 1955-1999

Physical description:  2.67 metres of textual records

Admin. history/Biographical Sketch:

Barry French was born on August 22 1931. In October 1955, he graduated with a B.A.Sc from the University of Toronto in Chemical Engineering. A year later, in 1956, he pursued his Masters degree at Graduate School of Thermodynamics at the University of Birmingham on an Athlone Fellowship. During this interim year, he worked as a research engineer for Orenda Engines in Malton Ont. and as a scientist to the Ramjet Section of the National Gas Turbine Establishment in Pyestock, Hants, England. In 1957, he returned to the University of Toronto, Institute of Aerophysics for his doctoral work. His thesis research, supervised by Prof. J.H. de Leeuw, related to plasma diagnostics and was both theoretical and experimental. He was hired as a lecturer in 1961, obtained his Ph.D. in 1962 and quickly rose through the ranks of the Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) to full professor by 1968.

From 1974-1982, he held the position of Associate Director of UTIAS and from 1982-85 was half-time Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. He was also a founding board member of the Innovations Foundation. Prof. French is now Prof. Emeritus and has retained his ongoing connections to the University and specifically to the research done at UTIAS through his position as a scientific advisor of SCIEX (name derived from Scientific Export). Prof. French has over sixty scientific publications and more than a dozen patents in his name. His early work in the 1960s on gasdynamics led to the establishment of the space simulation laboratories at the UTIAS and, as a result, was jointly involved with Prof. A.O Nier of Minnesota in developing the upper atmospheric mass spectrometer for Project Viking that collected atmospheric data for Mars. This research in miniature mass spectroscopy, vacuum gasdynamics and electronic technology led to several patented inventions relating to analyzing trace components. In 1974, Prof. French along with his associate Bill Breukelman founded SCIEX with the purpose of finding applications and markets based on these patents.

For the twenty-five years following the establishment of SCIEX, Prof. French remained a key figure at SCIEX with positions on the Board of Directors and as a Senior Scientific Consultant. Much of his research in the latter part of his career related to further developments of trace analyzers and ionization mass spectroscopy. Today SCIEX, a division of MDS Health Group Ltd., is a world leader in mass spectroscopy instrumentation. It employs over 400 highly trained scientists and engineers and has established awards and research chairs at several Canadian universities. It is seen as the most significant research company to evolve out of the University of Toronto.

Prof. French is a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineers and the Royal Society of Canada and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art and the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute. He continues to advise at SCIEX and is presently working with Bill Breukelman on a new venture relating to geophysical instrumentation for resource exploration. He lives with his wife Gloria in Oakville, Ontario.

Scope and content:

To varying degrees, records in this fonds document key components of Prof. French’s career both within UTIAS and as an outside consultant. His education in the newly developing field of aerospace science is documented in his course notes found in Series 10. These notes were kept specifically to document the early teaching of this subject since Prof. French took courses from Professors Ben Etkin and Irvine Glass whose papers are also held by the University Archives. General correspondence files in Series 1, talks and papers found in Series 2 and 3 as well as course lectures found in Series 7 document his broad role as a university professor including his publishing activities, his relationship with other professionals and his role as an academic advisor and teacher. His role as an administrator both at the University and on the boards of professional associations are only marginally documented in two small series of records: University of Toronto, Series 6 and Professional Associations Series 8.

While Series 5 Research is by far the largest series in this fonds, it is mainly confined to the latter part of his career relating to research supporting SCIEX. Except for a few files, early research files are absent from this accession and researchers interested in research in the 1960s leading to Prof. French’s participation in the Viking project will have to make due with records found in Series 2 and 3 and possibly some correspondence in Series 1. The strength of this fonds is how well it documents the research at SCIEX, one of Canada’s most successful companies to evolve from a university research facility.

Most records in Series 5, as well administrative files in Series 6 SCIEX, give a good picture of SCIEX’s evolution including the research undertaken, the funding sources available at the time, the business strategies that let to its success and specifically the instrumental role Prof. French played in this commercial enterprise. These records will be of interest to anyone researching the commercialization and marketing of technology in the Canadian setting. SCIEX is also a successful example of cooperation between industry and a university with the support of government agencies.

Access/Use: Restricted: Letters of Recommendation found in Series 1; Student evaluation files found in Series 7.  All other series are open.

Finding aids: Barry French Fonds

Related records in a different fonds: 

Accruals: Further accruals are expected.

Corresponding accessions: B2006-0024