Understanding of Moine geology in the 1930s
2002. "Understanding of Moine geology in the 1930s", The Life of Frank Coles Phillips (1902–1982) and the Structural Geology of the Moine Petrofabric Controversy, Richard J. Howarth, Bernard E. Leake
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The Moine rocks, or ‘Moines’ as Johnstone & Mykura (1989) and many others colloquially call the formal Moine Supergroup (Gibbons & Harris 1994), are a thick succession of metamorphosed sedimentary rocks, mainly psammites126 and semi-pelites,127 which occupy the largest part of the Northern Highlands of Scotland (Fig. 5.1). The metamorphic grade is mostly amphibolite fades128 with widespread garnet- to sillimanite-zone rocks, some migmatites129 and some low-grade greenschist facies130 rocks, especially in the west where the metamorphic grade declines. Although not obvious, the Moine succession rests unconformably131 on the Lewisian rocks of the Precambrian basement.132 The Moine metasediments generally lack distinctive sedimentary lithologies or bands which can be traced for substantial distances. Consequently, unravelling the internal structure of the Moine has proved to be exceptionally difficult and it is still not complete because of its complexity, the generally uniform lithology and the varied degree of exposure, which ranges from excellent to abysmal. The term Moine itself, which derives from ‘a'Mhoine’, meaning ‘the peat bog’ (in North Sutherland; Green 1935, p. lxiv), is expressive of the last difficulty.
The history of the understanding of the geology of the Moine Supergroup up to the publication of the great memoir on the geology of the NW Highlands by Charles Thomas Clough (1852-1916), William Gunn (1837-1902), Lionel Wordsworth Hinxman (1855-1936), John Home (1848-1928) and Benjamin Neeve Peach (1824-1926) (Peach et al. 1907) has been fully documented in gripping detail by Oldroyd (1990).
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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.