David Phillips (b.1939)

Professor of Natural Philosophy, 1980–1989

  • Photograph of David Phillips, head and shoulders facing forward

    Professor David Phillips

    Credit: Caroline Phillips


Ri positions

  • Professor of Natural Philosophy, 1980–1989
  • Acting Director, 1986
  • Acting Director of the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory, 1986

Philips is a Physical Chemist, his research centres on photochemistry and he helped develop the use of lasers in the treatment of cancer. He was Professor of Natural Philosophy at the Ri from 1980 to 1989 and served as Acting Director of the Ri and of the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory in 1986 after George Porter's departure. 


Born in Kendal, he was educated at South Shields Grammar-Technical School and then studied chemistry at the University of Birmingham. He undertook post–doctoral work at the University of Texas before being appointed lecturer at the University of Southampton in 1967. He was appointed Reader in Physical Chemistry there in 1976 which he held until he moved to the Royal Institution.

At the Ri he continued his research but was also active in the lecture programme; giving several Friday Evening Discourses and was responsible for the promotion and development of the schools lectures series as well as co-presenting the CHRISTMAS LECTURES in 1987.

In 1989 he was appointed Professor of Physical Chemistry at Imperial College and was head of Department from 1992 to 2002 when he became Dean of the Faculty of Sciences. In 1999 he was made Hofmann Professor of Chemistry; on retiring in 2006 be became Professor Emeritus. He was president of the Royal Society of Chemistry between 2010 and 2012, made CBE in 2012 and elected FRS in 2015.