Fabulous 50: Provost Harry Kelly Honored by Japanese Government

Harry Kelly, circa 1963

Harry Kelly, circa 1963

During the summer of 1969, the Japanese government awarded NC State Provost Harry Charles Kelly with the Order of Sacred Treasure, the highest honor presented to non-Japanese nationals.  The presentation occurred in Tokyo during a meeting of the U.S.-Japan Committee on Scientific Cooperation, which Kelly had chaired since 1961.  Japanese officials indicated that Kelly's "profound understanding of Japanese science has been instrumental in the promotion of scientific cooperation between the two countries," and the official citation stated "the U.S.-Japan Science Program has produced and continues to produce important results in the areas of exchange of scientists; exchange of scientific and technical information; studies in earth science, space sciences, biology and others; and has greatly contributed towards the advancement of science in Japan."   

Kelly (1908-1976) was a physicist, educator, science administrator, and author.  He studied physics at Lehigh University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then he became a college professor. In 1945, he accepted the position of Chief of Science and Technology for the U.S. Army's Special Projects Unit, and he was involved in the U.S. occupation of Japan after World War II.  His work helped strengthen cooperative scientific ventures between Japan and the United States.  Although hired to inform the U.S. government of Japan's alleged secret scientific advancements in defense, Kelly focused instead on building a trust among Japanese and United States scientists, sharing ideas, and creating cooperative ventures. 

Harry Kelly (2nd from right) at the inauguration of the Science Council of Japan, 1949.
Harry Kelly (2nd from right) at the inauguration of the Science Council of Japan, 1949.

After several years with the National Science Foundation, Kelly resumed his academic career in 1962 when appointed as NC State's Dean of Faculty (he later became Provost). He retired in 1974.  The university's Kelly Memorial Fund "supports scholarships and fellowships for exchange students in the sciences and engineering at NC State and for study of the Japanese language."

Hideo Yoshikawa wrote Science Has No National Borders: Harry C. Kelly and the Reconstruction of Science in Postwar Japan (1994 English translation of a 1987 Japanese publication).  Special Collections holds a collection of Harry Kelly's papers.  The quotes in the first paragraph are from a 31 July 1969 university press release in the North Carolina State University Office of Public Affairs Records (UA 014.001), Box 99.  Photos of Kelly (and from his time in Japan), can be found on the Rare & Unique Digital Collections website.  Please use the online request form to see Special Collections materials.