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Frank Charnley was born on July 15, 1895 in Rishton, England. He graduated from King Edward High School in Vancouver, BC. On August 12, 1915 he enlisted in World War I and served as a signaller until he was wounded at Ypres. After the war, Frank attended the University of British Columbia (UBC) where he graduated in 1924 with a Bachelor of Science. He was fluent in both English and French. Frank married Beatrice Chadwick in 1926 in Vancouver; they had two daughters, Beth and Frances.
He worked for the BC Sugar Refinery and later the Federal Department of Fisheries in Prince Rupert and Vancouver as Chief Research Chemist. Frank retired from the Department of Fisheries in the 1950s and moved to Barnston Island, BC where he built a home on 50 acres he had inherited from his father. At Barnston Island, Frank took part in sheep ranching and beekeeping in addition to working on mathematical projects and creative writing. Beth died at the age of 32 (of jaundice) in 1960 and Beatrice died in 1964. Sometime after 1974, Charnley moved from Barnston Island back to Vancouver where he lived until his death in 1978.