The University of Liverpool advertised the position of the George Herdman Chair of Geology in 1946, seven years after Read had left in 1939 to become head of department at Imperial College, London. Twelve applications were received. Phillips’ referees were the geologist Tressilian Charles Nicholas (1888-1989) and O. T. Jones. Nicholas is best known as an extraordinarily successful Senior Bursar (1929-1956) of Trinity College, Cambridge. Having retired from lecturing in 1936 (M. A. A. 1990) he was elected Chairman of the Faculty of Geography and Geology. He had taught Phillips as an undergraduate, had seen the commencement of his teaching and research, and appreciated his ‘public-spirited, hard-working and excellent’ administrative abilities, when Phillips worked under him as Secretary to the Faculty Board. Nicholas wrote very positively (letter of 27 August 1946, quoted in Anon. 1946), to say that he had every confidence that Phillips would make a very good head of department who could be expected to establish a school of research workers in new fields, such as that of petrofabrics. This view was independently, and equally strongly, supported by Jones (letter of 11 August 1946, quoted in Anon. 1946) who emphasized Phillips’ acknowledged role as the leading British expert on petrofabric methods.
Following consultation with the external advisers (Tilley and Read), a shortlist of four candidates was drawn up. Interviews (at which the external advisers were present) were held on 17 September 1946.