J. F. V. Phillips

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John Frederick Vicars Phillips

Born(1899-03-15)15 March 1899
Died17 January 1987(1987-01-17) (aged 87)
Hekpoort, South Africa
Other namesJohn Frederick Vickers Phillips
EducationUniversity of Edinburgh
Known forFire ecology
SpouseJeanie Dalgleish Turnbull
ChildrenJean Dorothy
John Saunders Turnbull
Frederick Jan Smuts
Scientific career

Dr John Frederick Vicars (sometimes Vickers) Phillips FRSE FRSS FLS (15 March 1899 – 17 January 1987) was a 20th-century South African botanist. He was an advocate of fire ecology theories.

Early life and career[edit]

He was born in Grahamstown in South Africa on 15 March 1899, the only son of Emily Dorothy Lovemore (born 1858) and her husband, Prof John Robert Centilivres Phillips (1850–1940).[1][2]

He was educated at Dale College in King William's Town. He served an apprenticeship in the South African Forestry Department and then won a bursary to study at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. There he gained a degree in forestry. He returned to South Africa as Forestry Officer in Deepwalls in Knysna undertaking ecological research on the indigenous forests. His work led him into work with Jan Smuts and Pole Evans.[3]

In 1927 he became Deputy Director of the Tsetse fly Research Centre in Tanganyika.

In 1929 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Sir William Wright Smith, William Edgar Evans, Robert James Douglas Graham and James Ritchie.[4]

In 1931 he was appointed Professor of Botany at the University of the Witwatersrand. There he created their first School of Ecology and established the Frankenwald Research station. He introduced courses on soil conservation in 1946. He left the university in 1948.[5]

In the 1950s he began the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Ghana. In 1960 he moved from Ghana to Rhodesia becoming an advisor to the World Bank and to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Between 1985 and 1986 he led a United Nations Narcotics Bureau mission to northern Thailand and other far eastern countries to investigate drug-producing crops. In 1969 he was appointed President of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science.[3]

During his retirement he was the technical advisor on mine dumps and related problems for Anglo American plc.[3]

He died at Bluebird Farm, Hekpoort near Gauteng in South Africa on 17 January 1987.

Personal life[edit]

He married Jeanie Dalgleish Turnbull (1903–1979), whom he met while studying for a degree in the Botany Department, University of Edinburgh. They had three daughters, Jean Dorothy, Marjory and Mary, and two sons, John Saunders Turnbull and Frederick Jan Smuts.[6]


  • Fire: Its Influence on Biotic Communities and Physical Factors in South and East africa (1930)
  • Edology, the Foundation of Forestry (1931)
  • Mortality Among Plants (1931)
  • Plant Indicators in the Knsyna Region (1931)
  • Committee of Inquiry into African Education (1962)


  1. ^ "Re: Professor John Frederick Vickers PHILLIPS". RootsWeb. Archived from the original on 12 June 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Prof. John Frederick Vickers Phillips b. 1899 Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa d. Aft 1979: British 1820 Settlers to South Africa". 1820settlers.com. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "TRIBUTE TO PROFESSOR JOHN PHILLIPS: South African Forestry Journal: Vol 141, No 1". South African Forestry Journal. 141: 79. 1987. doi:10.1080/00382167.1987.9630270.
  4. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783 – 2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  5. ^ John F.V. Phillips (7 August 2012). "Fire: its influence on biotic communities and physical factors in South and East Africa" (PDF). Fire Ecology. 8 (2): 1–16. doi:10.4996/fireecology.0802001. S2CID 84475605. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  6. ^ "John Frederick Vickers Phillips (1899 - 1987) - Genealogy". geni.com. Retrieved 12 August 2019.