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Mayneord Phillips Summer Schools


Major Charles Edmund Stanley Phillips

Image of Major Charles Edmund Stanley Phillips
Major Charles Edmund Stanley Phillips

Major Charles Edmund Stanley Phillips Major Phillips has been described as the first British medical physicist. Born in 1871, he was educated privately, never attending College. A Gentleman Scientist, he knew well such men as Kelvin and Crookes. Primarily an experimentalist he worked at home and was, in common with many contemporary physicists, studying the electrical discharge in evacuated glass tubes at the time of Röntgen's discovery of X-rays on 8th November 1895. His laboratory notebooks are preserved in the library of The Institute of Cancer Research. Experiments with discharge tubes led to the observation of the rotation of a luminous ring in an electrical discharge tube within a static magnetic field; the effect soon became known as the "Phillips' Phenomenon". His notebooks detail how he brought this to the personal attention of established physicists such as Crookes and Sylvanus Thompson and his ecstasy when being allowed to publish in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. These were the days when FRS patronage was the only way of having one's work appear in this revered journal. His notebooks contain exquisite line drawings of his apparatus with blow-by-blow accounts of what he achieved (and what went wrong) with his experiments. Such was his joy at being noticed by Crookes that he even stuck into the notebook the envelope of the letter bearing the news of his paper's acceptance by the Royal Society. In the autumn of 1896 he began, for reasons that are not known, to record all his daily notes in Pitman shorthand, an annoyance for today's historian. In 1897 he published a book listing a complete bibliography of X-ray literature, a task just possible at that time and almost certainly impossible thereafter. The work also contained all sorts of practical tips on how to make one's own equipment. In the early 1900's Phillips became interested in quantitative radiation standards and in 1909 he was commissioned to prepare three small radium standards which were calibrated against a standard in Rutherford's laboratory and then presented to the Röntgen Society of which he was a founder member and President in 1909-1910. The standards are preserved by the British Institute of Radiology. During the 1914-18 War he was physicist to the X-ray Committee of the War Office where he advised on such things as high voltage equipment for X-ray tube supply. Taking advantage of the luminosity of zinc sulphide he made, even before 1914, the first "night marching compass" the first model of which is preserved in the London Science Museum. At a time when Physics as Applied to Medicine was a considerable novelty, the radiologist Robert Knox invited Major Phillips to become honorary physicist to the Cancer Hospital, London (now the Royal Marsden Hospital) where he worked until retirement in 1927 on the development of the scientific basis of radiotherapy, on techniques for manipulating radioactive substances and in radiation protection. Despite his own lack of public education Phillips fostered education in the physical principles of radiation in medicine. He was honorary lecturer in radiology at University College and lectured on X-ray physics to medical orderlies to overcome the shortage of radiographers. The X-ray physics lectures at the Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich and at Imperial College were also taken care of by Phillips. He was awarded the O.B.E. (Military) for services. He would surely have approved of the "Mayneord-Phillips Summer School". Phillips played an important role in X-ray Societies. He was President of the British Institute of Radiology in 1930-31, a founder member and Honorary Treasurer of the Institute of Physics, Honorary Secretary of the Royal Institution from 1929 to 1945 and a Founder member of the Society of Radiographers. Major Phillips was an accomplished musician, owning and playing a Stradivarius violin. He made, repaired and played both violin and spinets. An accomplished artist, he also exhibited at the Royal Academy. His portraits of Dr Knox and Sir Archibald Reid hang in the entrance hall at the British Institute of Radiology; his portrait of Sir William Bragg is in the Royal Institution. At the time of his death in 1945 he was working on a commemorative portrait of Röntgen for the fiftieth anniversary. His wife designed the Presidential Badge still worn by the holder of the highest office in the British Institute of Radiology

Steve Webb

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