Motto: If it moves measure it. If it doesn't, measure it anyway.
Early Years
Chris N French (N is for Nothing as for G in Edward G Robinson. If you have searched the Web you would know how important it is to distinguish amongst the zillions of Chris French's out there, some of them also psychologists. Or for Norman!) was born in the Garden City of Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England during the war where his earliest memory used to be of sitting on an ants' nest but he has forgotten that. Now he can just remember leaving Letchworth soon after the war, aged three, with tears in his eyes as his family had not consulted him on the move ... typical! He then spent his early years in the borough of Southend-on-Sea (longest pleasure pier in the World), Essex.

This Jesuit quote "Give me the child till the age of seven and I will show you the man" is attributed to St Ignatius of Loyola or St Francis Xaviers, obviously an early psychologist who wasn't interested in women. Two thousand four hundred years ago Aristotle laid an emphasis on seven year periods. Clearly the die was set before the following photos, as meetings with fellow students over 50 years later has demonstrated.

There were 7 years at Thorpe Primary School on Greenways (see below)

[Class 4 or 1 of Thorpe Primary School, Greenways in 1953 or 4]
(Click on above image for enlarged photo of class 4 or 1 in 1953 or 1954)

Back: Colin James, John Bailey, Donald Fenton, Michael Sagrott, Christopher Pearson, Keith Larkman, Peter Harrison, Michael Peters, Pauline Allaway, Geraldine Howard, Susan Frith, Jill Banyard, Ann York, Carol Allsop, Mary Cleaver
Middle: David Murch, Gordon Carter, Brian Walker, Albert Potton, Michael Brech, Peter Gooding, Robin Rowland, Robina Miller, Ann Clair, Penelope Barker,Jennifer? Unknown, Susan Jones, Gloria Mordecai
Front: Alan Pride, Russell Ford, Chris French, Michael Smith, David Simmons, Marilyn Webb, Ann? Unknown, Eileen McDonald, Pat Potton, Pat Yates, Lorraine Taylor, Sylvia Potton, Linda Kennell

Please note the Unknowns above. Email me with corrections or additions to the names. Below is a plan from the class of Miss Murphy or Mr Spurling (1951 to 1954). Do you know which?

[Class 6 or 9 at Thorpe Primary School, Greenways in 1951 to 3]

And 7 years at Westcliff High School for Boys (see below)

[WHSB Easter 1960]
(click on above image for enlarged - 0.9 MB JPG photo - view of the 901 boys plus their teachers in 1960) where he learned how to avoid rugby and cold baths)

[Form 4A WHSB, 1957-8]
(Click on above image for enlarged view of boys who were in Forms 1A to 5A:

Graham Adlard, Dave Allen, Rodney Arnold, John Attwell, John Barnard, Brian Blackford, Michael Brech, Mike Burns, Rob Butler, Chris Chesney, Dick Davies, Lawrie Falconer, Chris French, Russell Ford, Roger Froud, Brian Hamnett, Noel Hardy, John Ikin, Cliff Jakes, Michael Locke, Geoff Mellhuish, Martin Miller, Chris Pearson, Tony Phillips, Paul Rickard, Geoff Robinson, Garth Scholfield, Dave Simmons, Colin Sutherland, John Thomson, Robin Turner, Lister Vickery, Ian Winkworth, Peter Wendell & Peter Wright. Maybe also Jack Cogman, Steve Colgan, ian Erridge, David Jackson, Roger Jarvis, Tony Jesseman, Mike McMahon, Bob Newman, Richard Oates, John Peck, Joe Seager, Nigel Stevens & Arthur Walker? Also form teacher Trevor Dickinson. Corrections, please.)

in 1957/8, when began his life-time reading of Time magazine, New Scientist and - prompted by Trevor Dickinson - the then-Manchester Grauniad,

5 frontpages
listening to Rock & Roll - Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly & many others - and later, female vocalists - Billie Holliday, Anita O'Day, Ella Fitzgerald etc - and modern & big band jazz.

Music & Books

From October 1961 (the same month that Private Eye began publishing) he spent two years in London at UCL struggling with the boredom of a civil engineering degree - "cement, sewers & surveying" - while pondering his ethics and extending his isms from scepticism, pacifism, empiricism, environmentalism & behaviourism (reading Bertrand Russell, Gilbert Ryle, Karl Popper & B F Skinner), atheism, humanism, rationalism and secularism to anarchism with Donald RooUm & Irene Brown and Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism - along with the odd demo.

Jeremy Bentham Donald RooUm Marham 18-May-63 Daily Sketch 27-Jun-63 London 1961-3

In 1963 he dumped engineering and moved to Scotland, spending three years at Aberdeen University leading to a first class honours MA degree in psychology (and handling 5-hole computer tape on an Elliott 803);

[CGI 1960s style, simulation of operant conditioning of pigeons, click for repertoire.]

From 1966 he spent four years on research into the psychology of learning theory (60s CGI pigeon simulation above) at Exeter University, leading to a PhD (using LESLI [below, designed & built by Chris], 8-hole paper tape, Stromberg Carlson 4020 microfilm plotter & English Electric 4/50 and Atlas computers).

[The 1967, £2,300, asynchronous, 80 event/sec, DEC Series R & W logic data logger, LESLI (Live Event Sequential Listing Instrument), that Chris designed and built.]

The Umist Years
  • Neil Charman's The Tech Years
  • [Chris at the PDP12A, introduced in 1969, 725 PDP-12s were built] [cycling to work at Umist in the 1980s] [the dancing years 1970-1980s, here in the 1980s -Buccaneers from Anello & Davide of Drury Lane]

    From 1970 until 1993 he was a Lecturer in Optometry at the University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology (previously the Mechanics Institute, now merged with Manchester University) teaching psychology, computing and statistics and published a little over 50 articles on subjects ranging from the need for visual health care, professional manpower planning, perception and art to computer software, while struggling with administration - selecting undergraduates, optimising computer facilities (from 80-column cards on the ICL 1905F to networking) and you name it. Above, Chris in 1971 during those black and white days at the mighty $27,900, 8K core memory with 1.6 microsecond cycle time 12-bit processor, DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) PDP-12A before he lost his hair, cycling to work at Umist before environmental issues came to the fore and demonstrating a new move at Umist during his dancing years.

    Much has changed in UK universities since the 1980s with a huge increase in student numbers but some of the games played in the selection process remain the same.

  • article on the university entrance process in 1982
  • [Chris carrying out a colour test using the UES in the early 1990s]

    The Umist Eye System
    In 1971 he began using computers to measure visual performance culminating in the French Letters PC (MS/DOS) software, launched commercially in 1993 as the Umist Eye System (UES) and still in use today on PCs introduced over 41 years, from 1982 to 2023, from antiquarian DOS-only 6MHz 80286s to modern 2GHz plus machines running Windows 10. Although it only likes 640x480 & 1024x768 displays, modern widescreen laptops need not be an obstacle. The UES can be run in 1024x768 on a standard 4:3 aspect ratio external monitor without distortion. (Other aspect ratios will distort a few of the minor displays, but have a suitable 15 inch 4:3 monitor that can be plugged into a dedicated a laptop.) Above, Chris tweaking the UES in Sally's practice back in 1991, stripes courtesy of a then ailing Canon Ion/Xapshot RC-250 analog camera, precursor of today's consumer digital cameras

    Life's a jigsaw - some cultural recollections:

    [Life's a jigsaw]
    (Click on jigsaw for enlarged view.)

    Present Life
    Today he works part-time for Sally French-Teeling Ltd which was established in 1990. In 1993 he had taken early retirement and became an Honorary Lecturer in order to gain more time to look after his three young children ...

    Williams Fish Tales

  • article on multimedia in 1996
  • article on nurture, nature & computers
  • ... their three young pets, half a dozen old computers, some computer programs including UES, and a house and small jungle - thus enabling his relatively young but long-suffering wife Sally to work even harder as an optometrist in her own practice in Cheadle, Cheshire. Chris launched this web site in 1995 and plunged into genealogy in 1996.

    According to the family, his main hobby is finding other things to do rather than tackle any urgent domestic chores. He still has very little spare time but can sometimes be found relaxing in front of a computer or TV. Favourite programmes have included Whirligig, I Love Lucy, Mash, The Rockford Files, The Raccoons, Columbo, Monk, ER, House, Mad Men, Ugly Betty and The Daily Show.

    While still reading authors such as Mickey Spillane, Philip K Dick, Frederik Pohl, Terry Pratchett and Richard Dawkins.

    For over 15 years he was a member of the local branch of the NAGC

  • article on IQ assessment
  • article on the gifted label
  • serving on the committee and editing newsletters

    [the committee]
    The committee years, with apologies to Allan Ahlberg

    but gave it up in 2005 to catch up on a number of domestic matters. Even when you are semi-retired, shortage of time is a problem. Theme song ought to be "Busy doing nothing", certainly"busy" but it all depends upon what you mean by "nothing". When he had time, he used to write educational software for his children.

  • article on teaching children to read
  • but now in - association with his sister - indulges his passion for genealogy.

    These days his over-filled teeth (courtesy of the NHS of the 50s & 60s) are maintained by the gentle Greg Marshall and his general health managed by the ever-patient Stephen Gaduzo. He had his prostate removed in 2004 by the brilliant Patrick O'Reilly, his hypertension sorted in 2006 by the superb Philip Lewis and his colon depolyped by the marvellous Brian Saunders. Excellent web sites include Dr Catalona's in the US for prostates (Dr Catalona recommends establishing a baseline PSA for men at age 40 which seems very sensible to me) and the British Hypertension Society for hypertension.

    Animal Corner With Videos
  • There's a moose loose about this hoose (Escape to Bruntwood, 1 min 29 sec)
  • Magpie Bullying - Two Against One (1 min 24 sec)
  • This video shows two magpies 'ganging up' on a third.

  • Magpie Deathwish (1 min 41 sec)
  • Back in 1965, Travis Thompson and Thomas Sturm showed that "stimuli evoking unlearned aggressive behaviour can be used to reinforce operant responses" in male Siamese Fighting Fish. Put less technically, the sight of another fighting fish would act as a reward and condition behaviour despite the fact that such behaviour in the wild could lead to death.

    Some time ago we noticed this loud banging sound in the house but it was a while before we discovered that it was a magpie hitting a window. This window doesn’t have curtains. Instead it is covered with mylar film creating a one way mirror. You can see out of the window but anyone looking in will only see their own reflection. This is what the magpie was seeing. It ‘thought’ this other bird had invaded its territory so it was attacking it, but in fact it was its own reflection - magpies like other birds can’t tell the difference. After first noticing the other bird by chance, it had been conditioned to fly up to this window sill every day to attack its own image. The same phenomenon that Thompson and Sturm had first noticed 50 years ago in fish.

    Manything recordings have shown that this happens on average 6 times a day for a total time of around 5 minutes although on a fine day it can happen a dozen times. This particular video is from 1:08pm on 10th March 2016. In October 2016 our magpie finally 'killed' its rival as the photo of our broken window shows. Bird attacks on car wing mirrors are familiar to motorists and if you park your car in the same place you might expect a similar build up in attacks although maybe an attack from a large bird like a magpie would require very large car mirror and you won't be there to record them.

    Reference: Visual-reinforcer color-and operant behavior in Siamese fighting fish, Travis Thompson and Thomas Sturm, J Exp Anal Behav. 1965 Sep; 8(5): 341–344.

  • Magpie Thieving (two minutes)
  • Birdfeeders for small birds aim to stop squirrels and large birds getting at the seed. Annoyingly they don't stop either from frightening the small birds away and stealing the 'crumbs' left in the bottom of the feeder. This 2016 video shows two clips side-by-side, comparing footage from a discarded (2012) iPhone 4S running the free manything app with that from an old 2011 Bushnell Trophy Cam Trail Camera.

    The radial chart to the left shows the birdseed consumption through one 12 month period in our garden with this feeder - roughly 45 kg all told. The amount of seed consumed is proportional to the coloured area - see accompanying scale. I was curious as I hadn't been able to find any figures online of how it varied over a year. Of course, this may be unrepresentative of other gardens. Seeds spilled on the ground by the wasteful small birds were picked up by squirrels and the larger birds. The pigeons were particularly persistent, constantly circling beneath the feeder picking up seed and while they tidied up the mess with one end of their anatomy they made more mess with the other end. That was until November 2016 when at least two were predated by a kestrel. Pigeons haven't been back since - well not up to the time that this was written.

    Squirrel steals birdseed from feeder resistant to adult squirrel (click below, 56 seconds)

    Fox steals empty dog bowl (click below, 18 seconds)

    Nuts About Badgers Movie (click below, 2 min 26 sec)

    The Hedgehog, the Fox & the Peanuts (click below, 39 seconds)

    Two Very Short Fox & Badger Skirmishes (click below, 1 min 8 sec)

    Mouse Repatriation - but does it end well?(click below, 2min 8 sec)

    Political Animals
  • Email Chris at




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