John Charles Phillips

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John Charles Phillips (November 5, 1876 in Boston - November 14, 1938 near Exeter in southern New Hampshire) was an American hunter, zoologist, ornithologist, and environmentalist. He published over two hundred books and articles about animal breeding, sport hunting, ornithology, wildlife conservation, faunal surveys and systematic reviews, and Mendelian genetics.

Life and work[edit]

His father was businessman John Charles Phillips, Jr. (1838-1885), who married Anna Tucker in London, England on October 23, 1874. Phillips was the great-grandson of John Phillips (1770-1823), the first mayor of Boston, and the grand-nephew of abolitionist Wendell Phillips (1811-1884).[1]

Phillips prepared for college at Milton Academy and graduated for the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University in 1899. He continued his education while he attended Harvard Medical School, which he graduated from in 1904 for a Doctor of Medicine. After graduating he began his two-year post as a physician at the Boston City Hospital, but never practiced medicine professionally.

Phillips married Eleanor Hyde on January 11, 1908, and had four children, John Charles, Madelyn Eleanor, and Arthur.[1]

During the First World War, Phillips joined the Second Harvard Surgical Corp and was assigned to General Hospital No. 2 of the British Expeditionary Force in 1915. After his service, he returned home. When the United States was drawn into World War I, he joined the Medical Corps of the US forces as first lieutenant. In 1918 he was promoted to Major. He was part of three important battles in France and part of the army that led to the occupation of Germany. In July 1919, after twenty-six months at war, he returned to the United States.[1]

Zoologist, hunter and environmentalist[edit]

At a young age Phillips had developed a great interest in nature, hunting, fishing and kayaking.[2] Through these hobbies he learned self-travel, an experience which later helped him with distant excursions. In 1915 he published his self-financed Boy Journals, 1887-1892, a work on his most important experiences from his youth.

Black-headed duck by John Charles Phillips, from his book A Natural History of the Ducks.

Phillips took various short journeys throughout the West of the United States and Canada. In 1900 he published the first two short article about his hunting experiences at Wenham Lake, as well as bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) in Wyoming. The area of the Glacier National Park fascinated him even before the time it was put under protection. Many of the geographical features today bear the name which he had assigned to them.[1] In 1896 he accompanied Robert Edwin Peary (1856-1920) on his Greenland expeditions. Ten years later, he and his friend Theodore Lyman (1874-1954) visited Japan and its colony Chōsen with a foray into the south of China to hunt tigers.[2] Further excursions, which he undertook together with Glover Morrill Allen (1879-1942), were in the valley of the Blue Nile and the border of Ethiopia between 1912 and 1913, as well as the Sinai Peninsula and Palestine in 1914. He brought important bird and mammal collections back from both, which were handed over to the Louis Agassiz Museum of Comparative Zoology. In 1938, he visited Cuba and Florida with Thomas Barbour (1884-1946). His last long journey took him to Kenya via Uganda and the east of the Belgian Congo with his wife and son John in the years 1923-1924 to hunt African game in its natural habitat.

In 1932, he published a list of his publications, which at the time contained 169 titles. Later, another 35 publications were added. While the first publications were marked by hunting and outdoor observations, he later shifted his interest to studies on genetic issues in wild animals, as well as species protection and environmentalism.

Taxa described[edit]

Crested Finchbill

Philips described numerous species and subspecies which were new to science. In chronological order:

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Allen, Glover (1939). "IN MEMORIAN: JOHN CHARLES PHILLIPS, M.D." (PDF). The Auk. 56 (3): 221–226. doi:10.2307/4079041. JSTOR 4079041.
  2. ^ a b Barbour, T. (1940-01-01). "John Charles Phillips (1876-1938)". Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 74 (6): 155–157. JSTOR 20023384.