Phillips was, first and foremost, a superb teacher and his main legacy lies in the students he trained and in the influence of his textbooks, An Introduction to Crystallography and The Use of Stereographic Projection in Structural Geology. His revision of Herbert Smith's Gemstones is much less well-known, because the study of gemstones does not form a significant part of any degree course. He excelled at the exposition of factual, logical, non-controversial mathematically based material in the visual, non-mathematical way sought by geologists. His translation of Sander's book was difficult to understand simply because Sander's obscure writings were themselves ‘impenetrable’ and replete with technical phrases invented by Sander which had no equivalents in English. Moreover, the subject of petrofabrics was never in the mainstream of geology degree courses, so Phillips’ last book would not have become familiar to most geology students even if it had appeared ten years earlier.
However, despite the controversy which surrounded the petro-fabric approach, Phillips’ pioneéring studies in the Scottish Highlands certainly were early developments in the use of increasingly sophisticated field and laboratory methods in which graphical manipulation of three-dimensional structural data, using stereographic techniques, helped to unravel the complex structure of the Moine rocks.
Despite the fact that Sander's kinematic axes, ‘movement-picture’ and ‘symmetry principle’ have become discredited,326 petrofabric studies undoubtedly provoked thoughts about the mechanisms of crystal deformation and recrystallization during metamorphism. This stimulated early experimental rock-deformation studies (particularly of marbles), by Griggs & Miller (1951), Paterson (1958), Heard (1963), Tullis et al. (1973), Tullis (1977) and others, to determine crystal response to known forces.
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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.