Kelley, Walter P. (1878-1965) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Professor Kelley was born in Franklin, Kentucky. He received his early education in Kentucky and obtained the B.S. degree at the University of Kentucky in 1904. He was assistant chemist in the Purdue Agricultural Experiment Station from 1905 to 1908 and earned his M.S. degree from Purdue University in 1907. In 1908 he was appointed chemist in the Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station, where he remained until 1914. He was awarded the Ph.D. by the University of California, Berkeley, in 1912 and returned to California in 1914 to become professor of soil chemistry. He retired in 1948 and, as professor emeritus, was active until his death. He was consultant to the Gulf Research and Development Company from 1948 to 1955 and to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from 1948 to 1958.
Before his retirement Professor Kelley's writings consisted of 88 scientific papers and an American Chemical Society Monograph, Cation Exchange in Soils (1948). A second ACS monograph. Alkali Soils, their Formation, Properties and Reclamation in 1951. This treatise and seven scientific papers were written during his retirement.
Three major studies dominated Professor Kelley's scientific interests between 1908 and 1918: the function and distribution of manganese in plants and soils (particularly in pineapple growth), the soils and crops of Hawaii and the biological transformation of nitrogenous substances in soils. In California his interests soon turned to citrus nutrition, the effect of salts upon citrus trees, and the entire problem of saline soils. His investigation on the basic chemistry and management of alkali soils and the composition of irrigation water, and their effect upon land reclamation and permanent agriculture, the role of cation exchange in soils, and the substances involved in the exchange phenomenon occupied most of Professor Kelley's attention for the last 45 years of his life. He was a recognized authority on these subjects and his research contributed greatly to the understanding of soil chemistry and irrigation agriculture.
Professor Kelley was commissioned in 1930 by the American Society of Agronomy and the University of California to report on nitrogen fertilizer research in Europe. He was official delegate of the United States Government and of his University to the Third (Oxford, 1935) Congress, International Society of Soil Science. He was president of the Western Society of Soil Science in 1923 and the American Society of Agronomy in 1930; chairman, Alkali Soils Sub-commission International Society of Soil Science, 1927-1939; honorary president of the International Society of Soil Science, 1930. In addition to the American Society of Agronomy, of which he was a fellow, and the Soil Science Society of America he was a member of many other scientific societies. He received several outstanding honors for his work including election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1942, the honorary LL.D., University of California, 1930 and the honorary D.Sc, University of Kentucky, 1958. In 1950 he was elected an honorary life member of the Florida Soil Science Society.
Walter Pearson Kelley died in Berkeley, California on May 19, 1965, at the age of 87.