F. Albert Cotton was born in west Philadelphia on 9 April 1930. He was named Frank Abbott Cotton by his parents in honour of thedoctor and friend of the family who delivered him. However, when he was not yet two years old his father, who was a mechanical engineer, died and guided by his mother he took his father's name, Albert. Although this was never legally recorded he became Frank Albert Cotton by common usage, or F. Albert Cotton, and to his friends he was Al. His family ancestry can be traced to England and Europe from whence his great grand parents had emigrated. His mother was only 32 years of age when his father died and, being widowed at the time of the great depression without a significant financial resource, she was placed in rather a predicament and forced to seek work. At first she did office work but thiswas not well paid and she discovered she could earn more as a waitress, and this she did for nearly the next 30 years.