Prof. Ian Spence
Department of Psychology
Sidney Smith Hall
100 St George St
University of Toronto

Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5S 3G3

Psychology Lab: Sidney Smith Room 630
Phone: 416-978-7623
Fax: 416-978-4811


Ian Spence is Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto. Born in Scotland, his undergraduate education was in mathematics, physics, and psychology at the University of Glasgow and he did his graduate work at the University of Toronto. His research interests include engineering psychology, graphical perception, psychophysics, psychometric methods with an emphasis on measurement and scaling, and statistics. Current research projects include the effective use of colour in scientific visualization, the role of colour in visual memory, individual differences in spatial cognition, and the navigation of dynamic information displays such as web sites.

Ian also has an interest in the history of statistical graphics and is working on a biography of William Playfair (1759-1823), a fellow Scot, engineer, entrepreneur, scoundrel, and inventor of most of the fundamental forms of statistical graph. Ian was recently invited by Oxford University Press to rewrite the Playfair entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, one of the major publishing events of 2004. This is the first major revision of this standard work since the original 33 Victorian volumes were published between 1885 and 1901. Curiously, the old DNB entry made no mention of Playfair's invention of statistical graphs.



That's me in the white hat flying my old Schleicher ASW 24 Standard Class sailplane (now sold; I have been flying my new 18m Class Ventus 2cxT for the past three years. It's fabulous!).

I have been gliding for 30 years and have flown at soaring sites all over the world. My favourite areas are the deserts and mountains of Nevada and California in the USA, and the Columbia Valley in British Columbia, Canada. In Ontario, I fly at the SOSA Gliding Club. I have won the Canadian National Standard Class Championships twice (1984 and 1997) and I hold the Canadian multiplace record for speed over a 300 km triangular course at 128.6 kph (you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader if you want to read the articles in the Soaring Association of Canada magazine, free flight / vol libre, for the last two links. Acrobat Reader is free and it's so useful that you should have it anyway!) This year (2007) I am in 4th place in the Online Contest in Canada.


My other obsession is opera. We have an excellent opera company here in Toronto (Canadian Opera Company) and a fabulous Opera in Concert series. The Opera Division in the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto also puts on some amazing productions and recitals. Elsa and I try to go to the Met in New York for a few days each December.


At lunch time I work out with some old friends at the university; we usually jog about 8 km on the streets west of the campus and then do some gossiping, stretching, and weights in the gym afterwards. In the winter, I ski at Blue Mountain in Ontario, and often at Panorama or Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia.

ISLAY (1989-2004)

Our much loved Sealyham terrier.

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