1966-1967: Frank Coles Phillips

Leading crystallographer and mineralogist who had major impacts on the teaching of geology.

Frank Coles Phillips was born in Plymouth in 1902 and educated at Plymouth College before he entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1920. There he obtained a First Class honours degree in Geology and stayed on to undertake research, earning his PhD in 1927 for a thesis on the geology of the Shetland Islands with a special focus on the igneous rocks there. He was appointed to a Fellowship of the college in 1927, and a University Lectureship in 1932. In 1947, he left Cambridge to take up the Chair in Geology at Liverpool, but quit the post shortly afterwards on grounds of ill-health.

Frank Coles Phillips joined the University of Bristol in 1948 until his retirement in 1967. He held the posts of Lecturer, Reader, and Professor of Mineralogy and Petrology in succession, being appointed to a personal chair in 1964. He briefly took over as Head of Department after the death of Prof. W. F. Whittard in 1966.

Phillips is best known for his classic textbooks An Introduction to Crystallography (1946) and The Use of Stereographic Projection in Structural Geology (1954). He also revised Herbert Smith’s Gemstones (1958). He continued to revise these books, with a third edition of his Introduction to Crystallography in 1971.

He made important contributions to geology through his research in the fields of mineralogy, metamorphism, structural geology and the study of petrofabrics, and was responsible for the adoption of the stereogram as an interpretational tool in structural geology in the U.K. However, the application of his pioneering methods of structural petrology to the Moine rocks of NW Scotland produced results which were at variance with those of his contemporaries, and which became the subject of a long-running controversy.

A superb teacher, Phillips’ main legacy lies in the students he trained and in the influence of his textbooks. Phillips’ personal record of his rock collection includes over 4000 entries collected over an unknown period prior to 1925 and subsequently up to February 1964.

Read more

Howarth, R.J. and Leake, B.E. 2002. The life of Frank Coles Phillips (19021982) and the structural geology of the Moine petrofabric controversy. Geological Society Memoir 23, 104 pp.  Further details here.

Phillips F.C. 1946. An Introduction to Crystallography. LongmansGreen, London, 302 pp.

Phillips F.C. 1954. The Use of Stereographic Projection in Structural Geology. Edward Arnold, London, 86 pp.

Phillips, F.C. 1962. The First Hundred Years: A Centenary History of the Bristol Naturalists’ Society 1862-1962. Bristol Naturalists’ Society, Bristol, 32 pp.