Philo graduated from the Sidney Sussex College of Cambridge University and became a Research Fellow there. In 1989 he joined the Department of Geography at the University of Wales, Lampeter, holding that post for six years, until 1995. He then joined the University of Glasgow as a Professor, becoming head of the department in 2002. In 2006 Chris was replaced as Head of Department by Professor Trevor Hoey and was enlisted on the Geography and Environmental Studies RAE Sub-Panel.
Traditionally his interests have been in the historical geographies of 'madness' and mental health and mental health care provision. Later, he dabbled in the emerging, and increasingly significant, sub-discipline of animal geographies. A devotee of the work of Michel Foucault, his research extended and localised Foucault's history of madness to England and Wales. Over a decade in the writing his major work was published by a minor press in Wales as A Geographical History of Institutional Provision for the Insane from Medieval Times to the 1860s in England and Wales: The Space Reserved for Insanity. Always a generous collaborator, he has co-edited numerous general anthologies of human geography. Most recently, he has examined, with Eric Laurier, cafe culture in Glasgow.
- Philo, C. 2004. A Geographical History of Institutional Provision for the Insane from Medieval Times to the 1860s in England and Wales: The Space Reserved for Insanity. Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston and Queenston, USA, and Lampeter, Wales, UK (712 pages)
- Cloke, P., Cook, I., Crang, P., Goodwin, M., Painter, J., Philo, C. 2004. Practising Human Geography. Sage, London (416 pages)
- Philo, C. 2004. 'Michel Foucault'. In Hubbard, P., Kitchin, R. and Valentine, G. (eds) Key Thinkers on Space and Place. Sage, London, 121-128
- Laurier, E, Philo, C. 2004. "Ethnoarchaeology and undefined investigations". Environment and Planning A, v.36, 421-436
- Philo, C. & Wilbert, C. 2000. Animal Spaces, Beastly Places, New Geographies of Human-Animal Relations, Routledge, London
- Philo C, 1995, "Animals, geography, and the city: notes on inclusions and exclusions" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 13(6) 655 – 681
- Philo C, 1992, "Foucault's geography" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 10(2) 137 – 161
Philo lives in Glasgow and has a young child.
- "Animal Spaces, Beastly Places: New Geographies of Human-Animal Relations" Lisa Uddin, review in Invisible Culture, University of Rochester.
- "Professor Chris Philo is elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh", Latest News, Department of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow
- "Professor Chris Philo FRSE", biography at University of Glasgow