Keen (Sir Bernard Augustus) Papers

Scope and Content

Correspondence of and papers relating to Sir Bernard Augustus Keen, 1931-1982, comprising correspondence between Keen and Sir (Alfred) Daniel Hall, 1931, then Director of the John Innes Horticultural Institution, relating to the setting up of the Agricultural Research Council and the offer to Keen of the position of Secretary, also including a letter from Hall commenting on Keen's report on Indian agriculture; letters of farewell to and from Keen and press cutting on his retirement from East Africa and return to Britain, 1954; letters from Sir (Edward) John Russell, 1962-1963, relating mainly to Russell's history of agricultural science in Britain, but also recalling Keen's appointment at Rothamsted in 1913 and [Ernest?] Rutherford's praise of his book 'The Physical Properties of the Soil' (1931); letters from G D H Bell on Keen's retirement as Editor, 'Journal of Agricultural Science', 1965; letter of condolence from Royal Meteorological Society on Keen's death, 1981; Sir (Herbert) Charles Pereira's memoir of Keen for 'Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society', vol xxviii (1982), with related correspondence of Pereira, 1982.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born near Southend, Essex, 1890; educated at Southend High School, 1902-1908; read physics and mathematics at University College London, 1908-1911; remained at University College London for a year's postgraduate research, 1911-1912; joined the staff of the Rothamsted Experimental Station, Hertfordshire, to study the possibilities of applying physics to agriculture, with particular reference to soil, 1913; served in World War One in the Suffolk Regiment, Gallipoli and Palestine, 1914-1917; Research Department, Woolwich Arsenal, 1918; returned to Rothamsted to set up a soil physics laboratory, 1919; re-entered University College London, 1920-1921; became Assistant Director of Soil Physics Department at Rothamsted, 1924; later Head of Soil Physics Department; Editor of the 'Journal of Agricultural Science', 1924-1965; broadcast talks to schools on science of agriculture and gardening, 1928-1941; remained at Rothamsted until 1947; frequent secondments overseas included the Directorship of the Imperial Institute of Agricultural Research, Pusa, Bihar, India, 1929-1931; elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 1935; President of the Royal Meteorological Society, 1938-1939; Vice-President, Institute of Physics, 1941-1943; Cantor Lecturer, Royal Society of Arts, 1942; Scientific Adviser, Middle East Supply Centre, Cairo, 1943-1945; adviser on rural development, Palestine, 1946; Chairman of UK Government Mission to West Africa on production of vegetable oils and oil seeds, 1946; adviser to East African governments on agricultural policy and research needs, 1947; Director of the East African Agriculture and Forestry Research Organisation, 1947-1954; member of the Scientific Council for Africa, 1950-1954; Chairman of Governors, East African Tea Research Institute, 1951-1954; knighted, 1952; Scientific Adviser, Baird and Tatlock (London) Ltd, 1955-1963; member of Scientific Panel, Colonial Development Corporation, 1955-1963; member of Forest Products Research Board, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1957-1959; travelled extensively in the USA, South Africa, India, East and West Africa, the Middle East, Bulgaria and Australia, to examine and report on the scientific, technical, and administrative problems in agriculture; Doctor of Science; Fellow of University College London; died, 1981. See also Sir Charles Pereira's memoir in 'Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society', vol xxviii (1982). Publications: 'The Physical Properties of the Soil' (Longmans & Co, London, 1931); 'The Agricultural Development of the Middle East ... A report ... May, 1945' (HM Stationery Office, London, 1946); various papers in scientific and agricultural journals.

Access Information


The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

Transferred to University College London from the CSAC in 1983.

Other Finding Aids

Full list available on the online catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Appraisal Information

Much of Keen's career was spent abroad on secondment and, as a consequence of this peripatetic life, few personal records survive.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre (CSAC) in 1982 from Sir Charles Pereira, author of the Royal Society memoir of Keen.

Related Material

University College London Records Office holds a file on Keen (Ref: Fellows File Box 3).

The Royal Society, London, holds seven of Keen's assignment and travel diaries, and published papers. Reading University Library holds letters to Sir E J Russell, 1944-1963 (Ref: HERT 11/1/1). Keen's collection of old prints and advertisements for early steam-power agricultural equipment was to be deposited by Sir Charles Pereira in the Library of the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Silsoe.