Bill Phillips was born on 18 November 1914 at Te Rehunga, Dannevirke in Southern Hawke's Bay in the North Island of New Zealand, and died in Auckland on 4 March 1975. His parents were dairy farmers; his mother was also a schoolteacher. The family generated their own electricity, and this may have stimulated Phillips's early interest in making crystal radio sets and in other ‘things electric’. He attended the local primary school and then went to Dannevirke High School. Graduating in 1929, he was briefly an electrical engineering apprentice on the Tuai hydroelectric Plant until the onset of the Great Depression. For the next decade he ‘wandered’, travelling across Australia and then travelling to Britain, via China and Russia (where he was unable to obtain a job in the mines because of the plentiful supply of political prisoners). He graduated from the Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1938, following several years of study by correspondence.
From The Biographical Dictionary of British Economists in Oxford Reference.