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Biographical entry Playford, Phillip Elliott (Phil) (1931 - 2017)


27 December 1931
Guildford, Western Australia, Australia
12 July 2017
Perth, Western Australia, Australia


Phillip Playford was a geologist known as an international authority on Devonian reefs. During a 30-year career with the Geological Survey of Western Australia, of which he was Director at the time of retirement, he made landmark studies of the Canning Basin and Shark Bay areas, the Kimberley and Rottnest Island, and was instrumental in the discovery of commercial quantities of oil in Western Australia. He was the co-discoverer with Daryl Johnstone of stromatolites at Hamelin Pool, and identified evidence of huge tsunamis along the Western Australian coast. Playford's interest in the search for Dutch wrecks stemmed from his location in 1954 of the Zuytdorp, the first of four wrecks so far identified. His book Carpet of Silver: the wreck of the Zuytdorp was awarded the Western Australia Premier's Book Award for History in 1997.



1952 - 2017
Career position - Founding Member (later Fellow), Geological Society of Australia
Education - BSc (hons), University of Western Australia
1953 - 1954
Career position - Field Geologist, Bureau of Mineral Resources
1954 - 1959
Career position - Staff Stratigrapher (later Field Geologist),WA Petroleum Pty Ltd
Award - Fulbright Scholarship
Education - PhD, Stanford University, California, U.S.A.
1962 - 1970
Career position - Supervising Geologist, Sedimentary (Oil) Division, Geological Survey of Western Australia
1963 - 2017
Career position - Honorary Associate, Western Australian Museum
1969 - 1971
Career position - President, Royal Society of Western Australia
1970 - 1971
Career position - Exploration Manager (later General Manager), Abrolhos Oil NL
1971 - 1978
Career position - Supervising Geologist, Geological Survey of Western Australia
1978 - 1980
Career position - Assistant Director, Geological Survey of Western Australia
1980 - 1984
Career position - Deputy Director, Geological Survey of Western Australia
1984 - 1986
Career position - Assistant Director General of Mines, Geological Survey of Western Australia
1986 - 1992
Career position - Director, Geological Survey of Western Australia
Award - Gibb Maitland Medal, Western Australian Division, Geological Society of Australia
Life event - Retired
Award - Special Commendation Award, American Association of Petroleum Geologists
1992 - 2017
Award - Fellow, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Award - Lewis G. Weeks Gold Medal, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA)
Award - Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to geology, and to historical research on early Dutch exploration and shipwrecks in Australia
1999 - 2017
Award - Honorary Associate, Geological Survey of Western Australia
1999 - 2017
Award - Honorary Life Member, Royal Society of Western Australia
Award - Kelvin Medal, Royal Society of Western Australia
Award - Centenary Medal for service to geology and historical research
Award - Distinguished Service Award, Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia

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Published resources

Journal Articles

  • Anon, 'Earth scientist, author and shipwreck discoverer: Dr Phillip Playford AM FTSE', Focus, vol. 204, 2017, p. 52. Details

Helen Cohn