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Francoise Gauquelin 1929-2007
Two tributes with pictures

Suitbert Ertel and Geoffrey Dean

Expanded versions of two tributes that originally appeared in Correlation in 2008.

Abstract -- Francoise Gauquelin (1929-2007), former wife of Michel Gauquelin, shared his vigour, his insistence on adequate data and tests, and his readiness to abandon wishful thinking in the light of empirical findings. These tributes by two of her collaborative researchers cover her joint work with Michel on planetary and heredity effects, her successful journal Astro-Psychological Problems and other publications, CORA, French skeptics, RAMS, and her solo work on heredity, character traits, aspects, and matching tests. She showed how determination and the scientific spirit can prevail over the challenges posed by astrology. If she saw further than most it was not because she stood on the shoulders of giants but because, like Michel, she stood on the shoulders of data. In various letters she said: "For me, your contradictory results are not shocking ... Affect and feelings must be ignored ... Search facts by objective methods is more valuable than theory". With Francoise's final passing we have lost an extraordinary contributor to the Gauquelin period of astro-psychological research.

Search facts by objective methods
Suitbert Ertel

Marie Francoise Schneider-Gauquelin, born 19 June 1929 at 4:00 am in Neuchatel Switzerland, passed away on 10 August 2007 in Joigny in the Yonne region of France. This was sad news for those who knew her well, especially researchers of neo-astrological problems with whom Francoise had collaborative relations (as I had from 1985 to 1998).

Francoise Gauquelin
Francoise Gauquelin at the 1981 London Research Conference
Right: with Charles Harvey and Michel Gauquelin

Formal qualifications
Francoise obtained a diploma in Psychologie de l'Education at the University of Geneva, under Jean Piaget's guidance. At the Psychological Institute of the University of Sorbonne, Paris, she graduated in Psychotechnique and Psychopathologie, and at the Sorbonne Institute of Statistics she obtained a diploma in Statistique in 1960, by the thesis L'heure de la naissance. Francoise (and Michel) thus graduated from universities, but did not attain a PhD -- this title was wrongly attached to their names in the list of consulting editors of Correlation.

Curriculum of the Gauquelin Investigations
In 1985, when I first contacted her, Francoise sent me a copy of her Curriculum of the Gauquelin Investigations, in which she describes the 1950s and 1960s as follows:

1952-1955: Following the same course in Applied Psychology at the Sorbonne as me, Michel [Gauquelin] made my acquaintance and we fell in love. His first positive results [obtained in 1950 using 576 births from Index Biographique des Membres de l'Academie de Medecine 1820-1939] impressed me, but did not convince me. So we started investigation of a second group of famous medical doctors. The outcomes were the same, which impressed me very much. ... My contribution at that stage can be described as bringing order and finishing up what was unfinished, like a good secretary or apprentice. Michel had a leading role, for I knew very little about astrology. He acknowledged my contribution by marrying me in 1954, and I gave the money for publishing L'influence des astres in 1955 [Michel's first book].

Subsequently Francoise intensified her cooperation with Michel, which in 1957 resulted in their joint in-house publication Methodes pour etudier la repartition des astres dans le mouvement diurne. Her Curriculum continues as follows:

1956-1960: Michel's first book having aroused much criticism, I suggested to take advantage of my knowledge of foreign languages for collecting data in other European countries, in an attempt to replicate the French findings. So our summer vacations were spent in Italy, then in Germany, then in Belgium and Holland where we went from town to town. Michel, armed with a dictionary, copied lists of new famous professionals at the public library, while I pleaded at the main Registry Office for the permission to look up birth times in the records. ...Back home, Michel did the calculations of planetary placements and I the computations of planetary placements in sectors.

The first heredity project
Between 1960 and 1964, after her graduation in Statistique, Francoise says she collected a large amount of the data for the Gauquelin heredity project, the results of which were published by Michel in 1966 (L'heredite planetaire: Notre naissance et l'horloge cosmique, Denoel Paris). The book does not mention her contributions, but the English translation published by ACS in 1988 (which also contains the two later heredity experiments) contains the acknowledgement: "I am grateful to Francoise Gauquelin for her invaluable help with the gathering of birth data in the first series of planetary heredity experiments" (page v). She also appeared as co-author with Michel of their 1970-72 in-house publication Birth and planetary data gathered since 1949. Series A: Professional notabilities. Series B: Hereditary experiment.

Astro-Psychological Problems
After her separation from Michel in 1982, when she published a monograph Psychology of the Planets (ACS 1982) alone under her name Francoise Gauquelin, to which Michel wrote a benevolent foreword, she went on to launch a new journal Astro-Psychological Problems: a quarterly research journal. In 1985 its name was changed to The Schneider-Gauquelin Research Journal: Astro-Psychological Problems, published three times a year, with a further change in 1986 to Astro-Psychological Problems: The Schneider-Gauquelin Research Journal. From 1988 it was published twice a year.

Eysenck Research Seminars
The late 1980s were Francoise's most prolific years. She managed to build on Professor Hans Eysenck's interest in astrology by organising with the help of local authorities what she called Eysenck Research Seminars. These took place in Long Beach California (1986), Freiburg Germany (1987), and Naples Italy (1988), with surprisingly different attendances (respectively about 25, 50-100, and 400-500) that, according to Francoise, reflected the local organisational abilities. Despite the poor attendance at the first Seminar, it resulted in the formation of a Committee for Objective Research in Astrology (CORA), with Eysenck as Chairman and other renowned scientists such as Marcello Truzzi and Victor Benassi as members.

Francoise's tribute to Michel Gauquelin
When Michel Gauquelin died on 20 May 1991, Francoise wrote: "I think we owe him a great debt for his productive ideas, the hard work with which he demonstrated them scientifically, the tenacity with which he defended them when they were under attack of skeptics, and I continue the work in the same spirit" (APP 8(1), 5, March 1992).

Michel and Francoise Gauquelin c.1970
Michel and Francoise Gauquelin c.1970

Diverse contributions to a research anthology
Besides the many articles that Francoise published in Astro-Psychological Problems, she found time to make additional contributions, two of which deserve particular tribute: First, she submitted to a seminal book Astrological Research Methods, edited by Mark Pottenger (1995), seventeen condensed articles on various topics of Gauquelin research.

Overcoming French skeptics
Second, and no less notable, is her article of defense against the attempt by French skeptics to defame the Gauquelin approach. The skeptics had collected, with apparent selection bias, new birth data of sports champions. In 1991, at a Euro-Skeptics conference in Amsterdam (Nienhuys 1992), I assisted Francoise by presenting an analysis of the skeptics' data, pointing out methodological bias that Francoise had correctly suspected (Ertel 1995).

To Francoise's delight, my role in this endeavour to find "The Truth about Astrology" (the title imposed by the publisher of Michel's 1983 book) was essentially successful. The basic Gauquelin claim, the correlation between birth frequencies in rise-culmination sectors and professional eminence, had stood my objective tests. Data of French renowned physicians, collected independently of the Gauquelins with the help of my colleague Arno Muller, showed the Mars and Saturn deviations beyond doubt. So the characteristics for physicians known from the early Gauquelin work were replicated (Muller & Ertel 1994).

No links with character traits
On the other hand, disappointingly for Francoise, I was unable to find evidence of links with character traits, the hypothesis that character traits were part of the correlations between natal planetary positions and professional success (Ertel 1990). It was disappointing for Francoise because her 1982 monograph had been based on this hypothesis, which I was now able to explain by unnoticed artifacts. Nevertheless, in true scientific spirit, Francoise attempted to test my findings, but was unable to finish her study due to ill health, see below.

Heredity non-replication
Another empirical backlash that Francoise had to cope with in her last period of independent research was the non-replication, in 1984, of the results of the two Gauquelin heredity experiments, the first published in 1966 and the second in 1977. Michel himself had been confronted with this unexpected failure despite using a huge new sample of 50,942 births that allowed 33,120 parent-child comparisons, almost as many as the two previous experiments combined. He saw the non-replication as puzzling but hoped that a further replication would provide an explanation, so that "One day we will know the truth about planetary heredity" (Planetary Heredity, ACS 1988 page 63).

Francoise's response
In 1989 Francoise's response was to begin collecting, with the help of others, more heredity data from Nogent in the south-western outskirts of Paris, where births were less subject to medical intervention than in Paris itself. After two years she had 1721 new parent-child comparisons that showed inconsistent results. Only the Moon showed a significant parent-child correlation in the expected direction. She concluded "Did this happen just by chance, and will the other planets catch up with [the Moon] when more data are collected and analyzed? As the continuation of the experment is already under way, we will soon know" (APP 8(1), 11-21, March 1992).

Two years later, in App 10(1), 3, March 1994, Francoise writes:

Around me two large new data collections are piling up: one for the necessary rechecking of the Gauquelin heredity hypothesis ... the other for testing the presently much discussed and reviled character traits hypothesis. ... I have to obtain, from new friends here, new research programs, one at a time. Otherwise I would have to work out by hand again the outcomes of thousands of new data, which I certainly did not have time to do in the middle of moving back from San Diego to Paris.

Unfortunately progress was slow. In APP 11(1), 8-17, March 1995 (the last issue before ill health forced her to cease publication), Francoise argued in favour of the character trait hypothesis, even though she did not have new results. As for her new heredity experiment, there is no information on her latest results, so we shall never know how they were turning out.

A third research challenge to which Francoise responded was Michel's and my failure to find aspect relationships between planets at the birth of eminent professionals. She thought that our negative results were due to inappropriate operational definitions and tried a different approach, essentially by including aspects to the Ascendant and MC, which Michel and I had excluded because they were confounded by diurnal effects, but without bringing the controversy to an end.

Search facts by objective methods
I discussed all these issues with Francoise and was impressed by the amount of vigour and endurance that she spent on them. I was no less impressed by her readiness, eventually, to abandon in the light of contradicting observations what I saw as wishful thinking. She wrote to me in various letters: "For me, your contradictory results are not shocking ... Affect and feelings must be ignored ... Search facts by objective methods is more valuable than theory".

Francoise dedicated her life, passionately, to scientific goals; her list of references contains no less than 70 titles. Nevertheless, in her daily social interactions, she retained humanity, a unique mixture of wit, temperament and charm, which made the relationship with her stimulating and congenial. With Francoise's final passing we have lost an extraordinary contributor to the past Gauquelin period of astro-psychological research.

Ertel S (1990). Scrutinizing Gauquelin's character trait hypothesis once again. Correlation 10(2), 3-19.
Ertel S (1995). Mars effect survives critique of Dutch skeptics. Skeptische Notities 7, 185-203.
Muller A & Ertel S (1994). 1083 members of the French Academie de Medecine. AP Muller, Waldmohr.
Nienhuis JW (1992). Science or pseudo? Proceedings 3rd EuroSkeptics Congress Amsterdam.
Pottenger M (Ed) (1995). Astrological Research Methods. Volume 1. ISAR, Los Angeles.

End of an era
Geoffrey Dean

Following the untimely death of Michel Gauquelin in May 1991, the death of Francoise Gauquelin in August 2007 marks the end of the Gauquelins' heroic scientific investigations into astrology. They were not the first to investigate astrology but they were the first to do it rigorously with large samples. I met them at numerous conferences, the first in New York in 1976, then at their laboratory in Paris several times, and exchanged much correspondence. In APP 8 (1), 4-5, 1992 Francoise describes how their joint investigations began:

I first met Michel at Paris University where we were both students in psychology, at the time a still little known science in France. This allowed us later on to make a successful career as editors of series of books popularizing the main discoveries in psychology. But to Michel, getting to know better this new science was not an end in itself. It was rather a way to learn how to explore with correct scientific methods the astrological theories which had intrigued him and fascinated him since a very young age. [He had] tested the influence of zodiac signs, transits, aspects, with no results whatsoever. Also, innovative astrologers like Paul Choisnard, Karl Ernst Krafft, Leon Lasson had published books energetically asserting that they obtained significant results with their collections of data which Michel was unable to confirm with fresh data. This showed him how difficult it is to properly evaluate astrological hypotheses and induced him to look for proper training at the university.

Michel's acknowledgement
In his "Confession in the Form of a Prologue" (Cosmic Influences on Human Behavior, Stein & Day 1973 pages 17-20), Michel Gauquelin recounts how Francoise contributed to his early studies:

On the university benches [in 1952] I met Francoise [Marie-Francoise Schneider], my future wife. She was my first listener, my first reader and above all, my first critic. She advised me to write a book setting forth all the labor I had performed in secret. It was to be the "antiastrological" summary of my statistics and the nugget of gold. "And so", she said, "people will read you and criticize you. Then you will know if you have truly found something and if it is worth the trouble of continuing". At the age of twenty-five I wrote that book [L'influence des astres, finalised in August 1954 and published with Francoise's financial help in 1955] and I found that it was worth the effort to continue.

Rue Amyot and the Gauquelin's library
Right: Rue Amyot in Paris in 1981. The Gauquelins' home and office was upstairs in the big apartment block on the right. Left: their library of about 300 books. Some were highly technical and often rare, others were standard astrology works that could be found in any good astrological collection.

Early days
Francoise arrived on the scene after Michel had finished his study of traditional chart factors, which he described as "a considerable inquiry in the testing of astrological rules with large and varied samples. It is necessary to stress that the results demolish astrology more than they might appear ... because they attack not the claims of particular authors but the most elementary bases of the doctrine itself" (L'influence des astres 1955 page 62). Francoise was not directly involved in the writing of Michel's first two books (the second was Les hommes et les astres published in 1960). But she had helped with some of the work, and her own official studies were in related areas, especially her study of birth hours (L'heure de la naissance, Population 14, 683-702, 1959). Later, when the focus was on planetary and heredity effects, the two Gauquelins became a highly productive partnership that lasted for more than twenty years until their separation in 1982 and divorce in 1985. A son Daniel was born in April 1967.

Astro-Psychological Problems
Limited by her separation from Michel, but encouraged by the success of Correlation, Francoise launched the journal Astro-Psychological Problems in December 1982 to provide a forum for the discussion of Gauquelin matters within its formal aim "to report empirical research into astrology", later "to report statistical investigations of astrology ... purely astrological articles will not be published". She published in English because it was more widely read than French. Issues consisted of photocopied A4 pages of typing done on her manual typewriter, a style that was not replaced by computerised wordprocessing until late 1993. Her first editorial in APP 1(1) asked readers "to be indulgent for errors of style, but very critical for errors of reasoning or of investigating a hypothesis. The criticisms, suggestions, corrections, will be acknowledged and discussed here with -- I hope -- an open mind. Each opinion has a value. But the liberty to criticize [is] the most important attitude for good scientific work".

Francoise's many contacts within Europe, and her fluency in French, English, German and Italian -- which had been helpful when the Gauquelins were collecting birth data in Italy (1956), Germany (1957), Belgium and Holland (1958) -- led to APP having a strong European content. Her insistence on the statistical approach led to many discussions of methodology (many more than in Correlation) and to a vigorous correspondence averaging nearly three letters per issue, nearly always accompanied by a reply from Francoise showing her clarity of expression and vast research experience.

In 1989, following Francoise's temporary move to the USA, APP was published by the NCGR as alternate research issues of its quarterly NCGR Journal. But rising costs soon reduced four issues a year to two issues a year, leaving no room for APP. In 1991, after only three joint issues, Francoise returned to France and began publishing APP again in its original format until 1995, when ill health forced her to discontinue. Today copies are hard to find but a full listing of APP's contents, plus two editorials and comprehensive abstracts of seventeen important articles, are available in Journal Cumulative Contents elsewhere on this website.

The thirty published issues of APP contain more than half a million words and nearly sixty empirical studies roughly equally divided between Gauquelin and non-Gauquelin areas. About half the latter gave positive results as judged by their author, but not as judged by Francoise and others, who often uncovered artifacts. Daniel Gauquelin appears twice (aged 18, 19), each time as co-author with Francoise of an article on elementary statistics. There was friendly co-operation with the other peer-review research journals (Correlation and the Dutch Astrologie in Onderzoek), and often the same authors could be found in all three.

Some publications
Some publications. From left: (1) Methodes pour etudier la repartition des astres dans le mouvement diurne, the Gauquelins' first collaboration published in-house in 1957, sets out methods for calculating diurnal expectancies; it is divided into three parts, of which the second part (ways of calculating sector positions) is by Francoise. (2) The first APP (34 A4 pages) published in December 1982; originally it appeared photo-reduced to A5 but readers preferred it full-size. (3) Psychology of the Planets (ACS 1982, 110 pages) describes the Gauquelin character trait research. (4) Papers presented at the third Eysenck research seminar in astrology, Naples 1987, co-edited by Francoise (Pegaso, Milan, 320 pages). (5) Problemes de l'heure resolus pour le monde entier (Editions de La Grande Conjunction 1987, revised 1991, 360 pages) gives time changes for over 200 states and countries, some of it based on input provided by APP readers. (6) Astrological Research Methods edited by Mark Pottenger (ISAR 1995, 467 pages) has seventeen concise articles (37 pages) by Francoise. Not shown are the thirty Gauquelin technical publications totalling over a shelf-metre of A4, of which seven are by Michel, one is by Francoise (Traditional Symbolism in Astrology and the Character Traits Method, 1980, 54 pages), which was the precursor of her Psychology of the Planets, and the rest are by both jointly.

Doing everything herself
Except for the three joint NCGR issues, Francoise did everything herself -- compiling, editing, writing, typing, photocopying, stapling, addressing, and mailing. The circulation is not recorded in APP but was probably about 150, equivalent to a stack of A4 nearly half a metre high per mailing. While astrologers talked, and talked about talking, Francoise (like Michel) delivered.

Golden years of research
Francoise was frequently at astrological research conferences worldwide, either with Michel or, after his death, on her own. The interest in their research peaked in the early 1980s before their separation, when they appeared with notables such as John Addey, Charles Harvey, and Neil Michelsen, all sadly no longer with us. Those were the golden years of research, when astrology still held promise of results commensurate with its claims, but which slowly faded during the 1990s as the hoped-for results failed to eventuate. Part of the problem, to which almost everyone contributed including the Gauquelins, was an emphasis on significance at the expense of effect size, which is tricky -- a trivial effect can be elevated to significance by a large sample but it is still a trivial effect. Perhaps the ultimate irony occurred after Michel's death when astrological tributes appeared using chart factors that Michel had earlier shown to be without validity.

In 1986 Francoise became the first secretary of Eysenck's CORA (Committee for Objective Research into Astrology), which was set up to counter the generally poor quality of astrological research by providing free advice. Only a few inquiries were received each year, most of which did not proceed further. Following Eysenck's death in 1997, CORA continued for a short while, then lapsed due to the drying up of even this meagre interest.

In 1991 Francoise, together with Suzel Fuzeau-Braesch (1928-2008) and two other French researchers, founded the French research group RAMS, short for Recherches Astrologiques Methodes Statistiques, or Astrological Research with Statistical Methods, see APP 8(1), 2, March 1992. The idea was a simple one: starting in September 1992, with Francoise as editor, RAMS would publish a journal that would replace APP. But Francoise left shortly afterwards because in her view RAMS was pursuing research areas that the Gauquelins had shown to be fruitless, rather than areas that promised positive results. The first issue of the new journal Les Cahiers du RAMS eventually appeared in April 1993 with the S now standing for Scientifiques.

Recent writings
Among Francoise's most recent and valuable contributions were her clarifying answers to questions about registry offices and birth registrations in APP 9 (1,2), 1993, which were of great help to my own discovery of social artifacts in the Gauquelin data (which nevertheless confirmed the reality of planetary effects, see elsewhere on this website); and her concise articles on data, statistics, and the latest findings in the anthology Astrological Research Methods (ISAR 1995). Here the typical practising astrologer's objections to statistics would not "survive a conversation with a good statistician" (page 111), and are in any case accommodated by matching tests using the whole chart, even though Francoise's own matching test of German astrologers had given results that were "totally disappointing" (page 238).

A rare look at recognition
There is also a rare look at the recognition achieved by the Gauquelins' heroic studies:

I have personally been most often treated with consideration and respect; I have been helped by learned colleagues who kindly refused any monetary compensation for their efforts from me; I have been invited to tempting conferences for free; and all because it is known that I [and Michel] devoted, for free, much time and effort to the vindication of astrological tenets (page 78).

London Research Conference 1996
London Research Conference, November 1996. From left: Peter Niehenke, Francoise Gauquelin,
Rudolf Smit, Frank McGillion, Jane Lee, Theodore Landscheidt, Mick O'Neill, Nick Kollerstrom, Pat Harris.

Last speaking appearance
The London Research Conference of November 1996 was Francoise's last speaking appearance in the UK. She replied to various technical objections, thanking Suitbert Ertel for confirming the reality of planetary effects, but disagreeing with his negative findings about character traits, see Correlation 15(2), 5-7, 1996. But she looked ill and was clearly not well. My last letter from her was dated December 1996. Subsequent correspondence was not answered. In 1997 aged 68 she moved to an old people's home in Joigny 130 km southeast of Paris, where she died on 10 August 2007, forgotten and neglected by astrologers worldwide until now. If nothing else she had shown how determination and the scientific spirit can prevail over the challenges posed by astrology. If she saw further than most it was not because she stood on the shoulders of giants but because, like Michel, she stood on the shoulders of data. Her example will be sorely missed.

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