It's All About Me

A Short Biography in Pictures and Words

The Story So Far...

Here is a more personal ‘About Me Biography’ . . .

As of March 2015, I moved back to England after living and working on the Gold Coast in Australia for more than twenty-five years. Leaving Australia also meant retiring from my career as an Associate Professor in Artificial Intelligence at Griffith University. Although I still hold adjunct and honorary positions at Griffith’s Institute for Integrated and Intelligent Systems and at the University of Sussex’s Department of Informatics, my academic life has moved on from artificial intelligence and is now focussed on writing and teaching phenomenological philosophy at the Free University Brighton.

The reason for this return to the country of my birth was partly because my mum was in the final stages of heart disease, and partly to make a new start in life as an author and philosopher. I am now, as they say, ‘semi-retired’.  But from my perspective, that simply means I no longer have to go out and work for someone else in order to afford a place to live and a bite to eat. It is now up to me how I spend my days. This is a position I have aspired to ever since I first had to go out to work, all those years ago, as an odd-jobbing gardener.

The first fruit of this new life is the Questioning of Intelligence book. It both wraps up my former life as an artificial intelligence academic and points toward what is to come. Already I see another book starting to emerge. It’s called What Matters. Of course, what matters to us here, the human beings of the earth, is love. But what is love? Do I really need to write a book to go into this question? Yes, I think I do.

John Thornton's Homepage

Mother and Father

For it is love from out of which we came – even if it was not entirely conscious. You can perhaps see that love in this photograph of my mum and dad, in Capetown, on their way back from Australia. In 1956, Rona O’Neil, a twenty-six year-old single woman, who, I think, had never left England before, suddenly decided to board a ship for Sydney, to be with the handsome man from the Royal Navy she had met in Portsmouth. Pretty soon they were married, and out of that union came a baby boy…

About me Biography: Leslie Thornton and Rona O'Neil

A Baby Arrives

Yes, that baby boy was me, and here I am, at six months of age, delivering my first lecture. You can see by the far away look that I have something profound to say. Little did I know it would take nearly sixty years to find the words that were needed. In the picture you find me living in Nova Scotia, Canada, a child of the Royal Navy, already moving around the old British empire, as I continued to do for the rest of my life.

About me Biography: John Thornton as a baby

Mother and Son

And here I am again, looking pretty pleased with myself. Perhaps you can see why, in the way I am being held, in the deep intent of the maternal love that is looking out of my mother’s eyes. Does it matter that your mother adores you, that she takes complete care of you, and is delighted by being with you? Yes it does. At the time I thought that was how it was for everyone, that mothers are just like that, hopelessly devoted to their children. But subsequent experience has taught me differently. It seems that a pure, playful, loving, non-suffocating enjoyment of being together is quite rare here on earth. I think my mother had it with me because she had it with her father. And now it is part of my precious inheritance. 

About me Biography: John Thornton and Rona Thornton


Here we see a young child who had a very different kind of upbringing. I can’t even begin to explain. But do you see, in those eyes, in the very atmosphere that surrounds her, that her essential being stands true? This is Nicolette, the girl, the woman, who is later to become my … my what? We are certainly married now, so we are husband and wife. But those words simply do not fit the manner of our being together. Can I just say that there is something sacred here, something that is not to be disclosed to the anonymity of the internet?

About Me Biography: Nicolette Thornton as a girl

Nicolette and John

That’s not to say that our life together has been an unalloyed fairy-tale. But, as D. H. Lawrence said of his life with Freda, Look! We have come through! And it is only now, as the inevitability of death starts to make itself known, in the cancer diagnoses of those around me, and in the deaths of my father and mother, that I feel the deeper significance of the life I have actually lived, of the people I have actually loved and who have actually loved me. For this is the real reckoning, the real virtue of our being here.

About me Biography: John Thornton and Nicolette Thornton