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.
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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.