Family background and personality
The petrographer,1 mineralogist and structural petrologist,2 Frank Coles Phillips (Fig. 1.1) was born on 19 March 1902, at 19 Lipson Avenue, Plymouth, Devon, the youngest of the three children of Nicholas Phillips, an Inland Revenue officer, and his wife Kate Phillips (neé Salmon). He had an older brother, Richard Salmon (b. 1898) and sister Dorothy Kate (b. 1899). He never liked his first name and subsequently preferred to be called either Coles, a family name (his father's mother was a Coles) or Phil, depending on how well one knew him. The printed labels which identified his many microscope slides of rock thin-sections3 bore the name ‘F. Coles Phillips’.
He was a thin, rather gaunt figure, who began to go prematurely bald at the age of 28. In consequence, he customarily wore a hat in the field, at first favouring a trilby and later a flat cap. In his early years he smoked a pipe, but this gradually gave way to cigarettes, or the occasional cigar, interspersed by non-smoking gaps which could last a year. One of nature's gentlemen, he inspired a great deal of warmth and affection in all students, and everyone always spoke very highly of him, as both a teacher and a person. However, a colleague from Phillips’ time on the staff of the Department of Mineralogy at Cambridge in the 1930s, the crystallographer Robert C. Evans (b. 1909), recalls (pers. comm. 1999) that while in those days Phillips was courteous to his colleagues, he was never warm, and could appear to be somewhat aloof.4
Figures & Tables
The Life of Frank Coles Phillips (1902–1982) and the Structural Geology of the Moine Petrofabric Controversy
Frank Coles Phillips was a photographer mineralogists and structural petrologists working in themiddle of the twentieth century. He was very influential, both in the UK and abroad and was responsible for encouraging the development of structural geology as a discipline in Australia and for the adoption of the stereogram as a fundamental interpretational tool in structural geology in the UK. He was a superb teacher, perhaps best known amongst mineralogist and geologist of today for his classic textbooks, An Introduction to Crystallography and The Use Steographic Projection in Structural Geology.
Phillips was the first to apply the methods of structural petrology (the study of the microscopic fabric of deformed rocks) in an attempt to unravel the complex structural history of the Moine rocks of northwestern Scotland. his findings were at odds with those of his contemporaries and resulted in the Moine petrofabrics becoming embroiled in a long-running controversy, only completely resolved since the mid-1980s.
This geological biography of an important twentieth century mineralogist and petrolohist takes a critical look at Philips' research in the context of contemporaneous developments in structural and Moine geology. It reviews his work in relation to both past problems and present solutions. It will be of interest to all gelogist, especially structural and microstructural geologist, historians of science and the general leader with an interest in science.