Phillips, James, Dd
Phillips, James, D.D.
an eminent Presbyterian divine, was born at Newendon, Essex County, England, April 22, 1792. His father was a minister of the Established Church of England, and attached to the Evangelical party in that Church. His early education was acquired mostly while he was engaged in private study and teaching in the service of the English navy. His tastes and habits seem to have been fixed early, and to the impressions which he there received, and the scenes he witnessed at the great military and naval stations, may be traced many of his later habits and interests. He came to America in 1818, and engaged in the business of teaching at Harlem, N.Y., where he soon had a flourishing school. There were at that time in New York and the neighborhood a number of American and British mathematicians who had organized a mathematical club, of which he became a member. To the mathematical journals published at that time he was a regular contributor, or at least to two of them — the Mathenmatical Repository and Nash's Diary. In 1826 he was elected to the vacant mathematical chair in the University of North Carolina, and entered upon the duties of his professorship in July of the same year. In this position he continued to labor for forty-one years, devoting himself with unremitting care and attention to his duties. The amount of work he went through with is amazing. He projected a complete course of mathematical works, and published in 1828 a work on conic sections, which was afterwards adopted as a text-book in Columbia College, New York. He prepared also treatises on algebra, geometry, trigonometry, differential and integral calculus, and natural philosophy, besides making for his own use translations of many of the French mathematicians-which works, however, he never made any attempt to publish. He also joined the other members of the faculty in contributing his quota to the Harbinger, a newspaper published at Chapel Hill, in 1832, under the direction of Dr. Caldwell. Up to the time of his coming to North Carolina, and for many years after, he seems to have devoted himself exclusively to scientific studies. Although he had been for years a consistent member of the Church, yet now he began to experience a change, which he regarded as the true beginning of his Christian life. Henceforth he ceased to be the mere teacher of science; he added to his othei duties the diligent study of theology and unwearied activity in all Christian duties, and in September, 1833, was licensed by the Presbytery of Orange, at New Hope, and in April, 1835, was ordained to the full work of the ministry. He was never installed as pastor, but he preached as a supply for some time at Pittsboro', and afterwards, for the greater part of his ministerial life, at New Hope Church. He was in the full discharge of his professional duties when he died suddenly March 14, 1867. Dr. Phillips was a man of remarkable literary, theological, and professional attainments.
He was an inexorable mathematician, but well and thoroughly read in all departments. Many books in his library had this simple comment, "Perlegi." His chief religious reading was among the old Nonconformist divines; his favorite authors were the old English classics; the book that was oftenest in his hand was the Bible. He was a great preacher; his sermons were complete structures; there was nothing oratorical about him-it was the pure "weight of metal." As a man he was uncompromisingly conscientious, remarkably modest, free from all arrogance and presumption, and yet most genial as a companion and friend. See Wilson, Presb. Hist. Almanac, 1868, page 349. (J.L.S.)