Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Philip Harrhy Jones (1931–1994)

by David Moy and Darryl Bennet

This article was published:

Philip Harrhy Jones (1931–1994), professor of environmental engineering, was born on 30 January 1931 at Tredegar, Wales, son of Reginald Salisbury Jones, master decorator and house painter, and his wife Evelyn Anne Elizabeth, née Harrhy, a schoolteacher. During the Depression the family moved to Slough, England, and Philip attended Windsor County Boys’ School. He gained a position as an articled pupil of the Slough Borough engineer and attended evening courses at the University of London. At age twenty he joined Sir William Halcrow & Partners Ltd, which sent him to the Gold Coast (Ghana) to carry out hydrologic and hydrographic surveys for the planned Volta River Project.

In 1954 Jones moved to Toronto, Canada. On 11 December that year at nearby Oakville, he married Eileen Mildred Ryan; they had met in the Gold Coast, where she was living with her parents, her father being a British Army officer stationed in the colony. Jones studied civil engineering at the University of Toronto (BASc Hons, 1958) and, after three years working as a consultant, completed studies and research in sanitary engineering at Northwestern University (MS, 1964; PhD, 1965), Evanston, Illinois, United States of America. Back at U of T in 1964 as a senior Ford fellow, he became an associate professor in 1966. He held dual positions as professor of civil engineering and microbiology from 1971. That year he was appointed founding chairman of the university’s multidisciplinary Institute of Environmental Science and Engineering (Institute for Environmental Studies).

The author of more than a hundred scholarly publications throughout his career, Jones had been influential in achieving a decision in 1970 by the Canadian government to ban phosphates in detergents to combat eutrophication of waterways. He served as a consultant and adviser to numerous bodies, including the World Health Organization; sat on expert panels and international commissions on water quality; chaired the 10th Biennial Conference of the International Association on Water Pollution Research (1980); helped to establish the Pacific Basin Consortium on Hazardous Wastes (1986); and organised symposia on the destruction of polychlorinated biphenyls using cement kiln technology. In 1986 he was elected to the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. The Canadian Society for Civil Engineering awarded him the Albert E. Berry medal for his pioneering contribution to environmental engineering (1990).

Selected to head the new school of environmental engineering in Griffith University’s innovative division of Australian environmental studies (later, faculty of environmental science), Jones arrived in Brisbane to take up the post in February 1991. He established a ground-breaking environmental engineering degree that created early cohorts of graduates who were unique in Australia and much sought after by industry. The program required students to take six, rather than the conventional four, subjects per semester. It substituted sociology, communication, and ecology subjects for some traditional first-year engineering courses. When students complained of prejudice against them in the ecology class, Jones informed them that, as engineers trying to solve environmental problems, they would continue to encounter suspicion during their careers, because of the profession’s usual association with development rather than conservation.

Appointing capable deputies and senior colleagues to whom he could delegate responsibility and authority, Jones concentrated on his role as a global leader in environmental engineering, promoting the field in the university and the outside world. His reputation, experience, knowledge, ability to link with industry groups, and communication skills ensured that he was invited to join the boards or steering committees of many environmental initiatives. Typically, after one or two meetings, he would nominate an alternate from his staff to carry on in his place.

In 1991 Jones established the Waste Management Research Unit, with financial assistance and direction from the then Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage. The WMRU represented the school of environmental engineering on a number of bodies, including the Environmental Management Industry Association of Australia (Sustainable Business Association) and the Standards Australia mirror committee for Technical Committee 207 developing the International Organisation for Standardization’s 14000 Series Environmental Management Systems Standards.

The WMRU and school ran a succession of important international technology-transfer conferences. Jones ensured that they attracted media attention, with the aim of informing the public and politicians about sustainable waste management and the recovery of materials and energy from waste. He chaired Kilburn ’92, on the role of cement kilns. The Compost 94 conference on organic waste, at which he presented two seminal papers, included a free, open public session. His encouragement and support of junior staff resulted in the faculty’s considerable contributions to the United Nations’ environmental education and training program and the establishment of the school’s innovative course in industrial ventilation.

Besides his work and family, Jones loved rugby football, a beef pie eaten in his hands (even in stylish restaurants), and smoking his pipe while discussing football or the next big project he had in mind for the school. He died of cancer on 22 September 1994 at his Sunnybank Hills home and, following an Anglican funeral, was cremated. His wife and their two daughters and two sons survived him. The legacy of his time in Australia is the significant contribution of himself, his staff, and his students to the national and global movement towards environmental protection and sustainable development.

Research edited by Darryl Bennet

Select Bibliography

  • Davey, Tom. ‘Outspoken Environmental Scientist Dies.’ Environmental Science and Engineering Magazine (Aurora, Ontario, Canada) 7, no. 5 (October-November 1994): 9
  • Jones, Eileen. Personal communication
  • Jones, P. H. Professional and Academic Curriculum Vita of Philip H. Jones. Unpublished typescript, August 1989. Copy held on ADB file
  • Rose, Calvin. Personal communication
  • Rose, Calvin. ‘Scientist Fought for Environment.’ Australian, 30 September 1994, 12
  • Personal knowledge of ADB subject.

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

David Moy and Darryl Bennet, 'Jones, Philip Harrhy (1931–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2020, accessed online 16 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


30 January, 1931
Tredegar, Wales


22 September, 1994 (aged 63)
Sunnybank Hills, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (bowel)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations