Table of Contents   |  Next

Fire Ecology, 2012
Volume 8, Issue 2

Fire: Its Influence on Biotic Communities and Physical Factors in South and East Africa, with an introduction by Brian W. van Wilgen
Author: John F.V. Phillips
Pages: 1-16
DOI: 10.4996/fireecology.0802001

John Frederick Vicars Phillips (1899-1987) was a pioneer ecologist in Africa, and the first to conduct a serious scientific examination of the phenomenon of fire on the continent. Born in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, he obtained a bursary to study at Edinburgh University, where he was awarded a degree in forestry and botany. On his return to South Africa, he initiated innovative research into the ecology of indigenous forests, and his outstanding work on forest succession in the Knysna region of the Western Cape, South Africa, led to the award of a Doctor of Science degree from Edinburgh University in 1927. He was also elected the youngest ever Fellow of the Royal Society, Edinburgh. In the years that followed, he maintained contact with the leading ecologists of his time—including Arthur Tansley and Frederick Clements—and brought southern African ideas into the mainstream of international ecological thinking. In addition, his influence across Africa became substantial. After serving as a research officer in the Department of Forestry in the Cape, he was appointed Director of the Department of Tsetse Fly Research in Tanganyika from 1927 to 1931. Later in his career in the 1950s and 1960s, he was invited to initiate a Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Ghana, and also became a senior advisor to the governments of Britain, Tanganyika, Ghana, Malawi, and Rhodesia, and to the World Bank, and the Food and Agricultural Organisation. In 1966, he worked with Ian McHarg at the University of Pennsylvania. Phillips travelled widely, lecturing and advising on fire ecology and ecological planning, but he also promoted these sciences in his own country. From 1931 to 1948, he was Professor of Botany at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and he created a strong and significant department. In the mid-1960s, then attached to the University of Natal, he led an important ecological planning initiative in that province.

View entire article (PDF)   View entire article (PDF)