Frank Adams was born in Woolwich on 5 November 1930. His home was in New Eltham, about ten miles east of the centre of London. Both his parents were graduates of King's College, London, which was where they had met. They had one other child — Frank's younger brother Michael — who rose to the rank of Air Vice-Marshal in the Royal Air Force.
In his creative gifts and practical sense, Frank took after his father, a civil engineer, who worked for the government on road building in peace-time and airfield construction in war-time. In his exceptional capacity for hard work, Frank took after his mother, who was a biologist active in the educational field.