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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.