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John Phillips: Yorkshire's Traveller Through Time

John Phillips - Yorkshire's Traveller Through Time

By Colin Speakman

192 pages | ISBN 978-0-9955609-8-7

When John Phillips (1800-74) arrived in Yorkshire in 1819 as a penniless teenager with his uncle, the great geological pioneer William “Strata” Smith, he could have had no idea how the landscapes of Yorkshire were going to dominate his life. A brilliant cartographer and early geologist, Phillips became Secretary of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and first Keeper of the Yorkshire Museum. He was among the first to produce detailed studies of the Yorkshire Coast and Carboniferous Limestones of the Yorkshire Dales. First Secretary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science launched in York in 1831, he went on make major contributions to astronomy and meteorology and became a palaeontologist of world renown, appointed Professor of Geology at Oxford University and Keeper of its great Museum of Natural History.

This book is also about another side of John Phillips – the pioneer walker-writer and artist. Having tramped thousands of miles in geological wanderings, Phillips produced two of the best early guidebooks to Yorkshire, including one of the world’s first-ever railway guidebooks.

This absorbing book shares John Phillips’s passion for the Yorkshire landscape, and in both word and image retraces his footsteps through Dales, Moors and Coast. It suggests how Phillips was an inspirational force behind Britain’s National Park and outdoor movement, one of the great early interpreters of the Yorkshire landscape who has influenced later generations in countless ways.

BOOK REVEW, by Professor Colin Waters

This book provides an affectionate description of the life and works of the 19th century geologist John Phillips, concentrating on his connections with Yorkshire and northern England. This book goes a long way to promoting the incredibly broad range of his interests as inventor, talented artist, noted meteorologist and astronomer (with features on the Moon and Mars bearing his name).

The book is well illustrated throughout with modern photographs of the landscape visited and described by Phillips, plus images of the great man and his associates, and contemporary images relevant to his travels, including copies of some of Phillips’ excellent lithographs. These help make the book visually interesting.

Much is made of his humble background and that, despite no formal qualifications, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society and became Professor of Geology at King’s College, London, the University of Dublin and ultimately at Oxford University.

There is a bibliography of Phillips’ important publications, but also a helpful list of sources both from Phillips’ contemporaries and more modern writings, including popular publications that put the landscape and geology described by Phillips into a modern context. Throughout the book, the author faithfully acknowledges the information sources used and takes time to acknowledge the characters of the many people who touched Phillips’ life and helped develop his career.

Prof. Colin Waters

The full book review is available in YGS Circular 629 - available in our archive.

About the Author

Colin Speakman has at various times been a teacher, lecturer, National Park officer, County Tourist Officer and public transport consultant. Award winning writer and environmentalist, he is a poet and author or co-author of over 60 books, mainly about walking and the countryside, but perhaps he is best known as co-founder of the Dales Way long distance footpath between Yorkshire and the Lake District.

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The book will be on sale at YGS Indoor meetings (cash only) at the price of £12.00. For details of our indoor meetings programme: please click here.

Also available by Colin Speakman:

Adam Sedgwick - Geologist and Dalesman

The Yorkshire Geological Society is pleased to announce the publication of Adam Sedgwick - Geologist and Dalesman a biuography to Colin Speakman.

Published jointly by YGS and Gritstone Publishing Co-operative Ltd, the book tells the story of the upbringing, professional life and research of Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873), one of the great figures of Geology and of Victorian-era British Science. Colin Speakman, already well known for his writings and broadcasts on the Yorkshire Dales, carries the reader from Sedgwick’s humble beginnings in Dent to his academic position of Woodwardian Professor at the University of Cambridge. Because of the detailed research by the author the book will appeal not only to readers with an interest in the history of science but also to those who enjoy a fast-moving and diverse story of success, often against all the odds. Lovers of Yorkshire, and in particular the Dales, will find much to enjoy

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