John Phillips was one of the most remarkable and important scientists of the Victorian period. Orphaned at the age of seven and brought up by his uncle, he rose to hold a number of highly prestigious posts within the British academic and scientific community, despite lacking a university education. By the time of his death in 1874 he was widely regarded as one of the pioneers and champions of the science of geology, yet until now there has been no full length biography of Phillips.
In rectifying this lacuna, Jack Morrell has produced a meticulous and magisterial piece of scholarship that does justice to the achievements and legacy of John Phillips. Adopting a broadly chronological approach, the book not only traces the development of Phillips's career but clarifies and highlights his role within Victorian culture, shedding light on many wider themes. It explores how Phillips' love of science was inseparable from his need to earn a living and develop a career which could sustain him. Hence questions of power, authority, reputation and patronage were central to Phillips's career and scientific work.
Drawing on a wealth of primary sources and a rich body of recent writings on Victorian science, this biography provides a fascinating and compelling account of John Phillips and his legacy. Pulling together his personal story with the scientific theories and developments of the day, and fixing them firmly within the context of wider society, this biography will be vital reading for anyone with an interest in the history of British and nineteenth-century science.
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