Arthur Pierson Kelley (1897 - 1979) was a notable German American professor of Botany and the founder of the Creationist Society in America. He is also noted for having edited the widely used genealogical encyclopedia 200 Years in the Shenandoah Valley: the Settlers and their Pine Church.
Early Life and Academics
Born 15th October 1897 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, Arthur Pierson Kelley was the son of Sarah Rebecca Beaver Groff and Albanis Ashmun Kelley. His mother was of Pennsylvania German and Jewish ancestry and his father of Irish descent. Arthur was first privately tutored and then attended public schools in Chester County.
He attended the University of Pennsylvania, graduating at the top of his class around 1922. His major field was Organic Sciences, specifically Botany and his areas of specialization included Mycorrhizae, plant soil typology and the survival of blight by various plant species. He would become an internationally renowned researcher in his field, conducting research in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Maryland and Virginia. Many of his works were considered classics in the field at the time and are still actively consulted by researchers around the world today.
Anti-evolution and the Creationist Society
As an academic and in particular being involved in the Natural Sciences, Prof. Arthur Pierson Kelley was in a unique position to observe the 'evolution' of scientific theories. As in previous centuries, the body of scientific theory continued a pattern of development in which new theories would become established truths and at times even develop into a form of unquestionable orthodoxy in a particular field, only to be replaced at a later time or ultimately abandoned.
During the 1930's Prof. Arthur Pierson Kelley became increasingly concerned with what he regarded as the "fundamentalism" of the Theory of Evolution in the scientific community. He compared this fundamentalism to that which can be found in numerous religions and felt that creationism could be reconciled with current scientific facts. He also saw the spiritual aspect of human thought as an essential tool for interpreting the world and as being equally important and beneficial as the scientific method. His view was not so much that science and spirituality are in conflict; but that they are both equally necessary and complement each other.
From the 1930's the Evolution Protest Movement had become more vocal and visible in the United Kingdom, in particular England. Prof. Kelley saw in this movement a possible answer to his concern about the balance of debate in America. Largely inspired by the British anti-evolution movement, Prof. Arthur Pierson Kelly founded and later became the principle ideologue of the Creationist Society of the United States.
During the period when the culture of the United States was moving away from the moral and ethical restraints of the 1940's and 1950's and toward the laissez faire attitudes of the 1960's and 1970's, Prof. Kelley's attempts to transplant the anti-evolution movement to American soil were not fruitful. Though the United States would later become fertile soil for this ideology, Prof. Arthur Pierson Kelley would not live to see it for himself.
Prof. Arthur Pierson Kelley died in Frederick County, Virginia at his mansion in October 1979.
Major Works by Prof. Arthur Pierson Kelley
- Kelley, Arthur Pierson. 1929. Catalogue of the vascular plants of the Okoboji region, Dickinson County, Iowa.
- Kelley, Arthur Pierson. 1937. Literature of Mycorrhizae. Landenberg, Pa: Landenberg Laboratory.
- Kelley, Arthur Pierson. 1921. Plant indicators of soil types. (University of Pennsylvania)
- Kelley, Arthur Pierson, Chestnut Treas Surviving Blight Science 26 September 1924: 292-293.
- Kelley, Arthur Pierson. 1976. 200 years in the Shenandoah Valley: the settlers and their Pine Church, with records made by Paul Henkel. Yellow Springs, Ohio: Tree Pub.
References and Further Reading
- Everest, F. Alton, "The American Scientific Affiliation - The First Decade " JASA 3 (September 1951): 33-38
- The Cleland mss., 1911-1946, are the papers of Ralph Erskine Cleland, 1892-1971, botanist. They consist chiefly of correspondence with prominent scientists on Oenothera, evening primrose. Among the correspondents in the collection are... Arthur Pierson Kelley...
- New York Botanical Garden, The Robert Statham Williams Records. The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog. Persons: Kelley, Arthur Pierson, 1897-, Williams, R.S. (Robert Statham), 1859-1945.
- The Creationist Society Evolution Protest movement founded and led by Prof. Arthur Pierson Kelley in the United States.