The Chromatographic Society were sad to hear that Dr Courtenay Phillips died on 15th April 2022 at the age of 97. He was a founder and the second Chairman of the Gas Chromatography Discussion Group (the forerunner to The Chromatographic Society) from 1961-1965. He is best known to chromatographers as one of the pioneers of gas chromatography (or vapour-phase chromatography as GC was initially called).
Dr Phillips was born in 1924 in Newport. He was educated at Haileybury College, Hertfordshire and at Merton College, Oxford where he graduated with first class honours in chemistry in 1949, receiving his MA in the same year and D.Sc in 1964. Merton College kindly let the Chromatographic Society use the Photograph of Dr Phillips. He was appointed Fellow and Tutor in Chemistry at Merton College in 1948 and shortly after University Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry at Oxford University. He retired from his college and university posts in 1992, but was to spend nearly 80 years of his life associated with the university.
He started research on GC in 1947 and his earliest work on the gas-solid displacement technique preceded that of Martin and James on gas-liquid partition chromatography. At a meeting of the Society for Analytical Chemistry held in Oxford in September of 1952, attended by some 400 people from industry, Dr Phillips delivered a paper on the use of temperature programming in GC. The excitement generated by this and other presentations (from Martin and James, and Claessen amongst others) was intense and many industrial organisations, particularly Shell, BP, ICI and Distiller’s, instituted major development programmes in the technique.
His developments were pivotal in the field. Most of Dr Phillips’ published work was in or related to gas chromatography, including the first book on Gas Chromatography published in 1956. He also wrote a two-volume text on Inorganic Chemistry with R.J.P. Williams published in 1965 and 1966. Altogether Dr Phillips published around one hundred papers. He was awarded medals for his chromatographic work by Russia (Tswett Medal in 1975) and in the UK (the A.J.P. Martin medal from the Gas Chromatography Discussion Group in 1982). He remained an honorary life member of The Chromatographic Society and sat on the Honorary Editorial Board of Chromatographia until his death. He is survived by his children Julia and Martyn.