John Forrest Kelly

John Forrest Kelly

John Forrest Kelly, 284 W. Housatone-street, Pittsfield Mass. U. S. A. was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland in 1909. He was proposed by Robert Cochrane F. S. A. Fellow. As a fellow Fellow I was curious to know more about this man. Kelly was born in March 1859 near Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary. He was the son of two Fenian Schoolteachers Jeremiah and Kate Forrest Kelly, who had eleven other children. John emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1873. He was educated at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey where he received the degree of B.L. in 1878 and a Ph.D. In 1881 at the age of 22.

His first position was that of assistant to to Thomas A. Edison, in the Menlow Park laboratory where he worked mainly on the chemistry of rare earths. Late in 1879 Kelly became electrical engineer of the New York branch of the Western Electric Company. This was the time when the telephone was being generally introduced and when dynamos were first been used for telegraphic purposes. In 1882 he became laboratory assistant to Edward Weston, the chief electrician of the United States Electric Lighting Company. Some of the most important work such as the research which ended in the discovery of high resistance alloys of very low or even negative temperature coefficients, were carried out by Kelly under general directions from Mr. Weston, whom Kelly succeeded as chief electrician of the United States Electric Lighting Company. In 1892 Kelly resigned to join William Stanley in experimental work. With William Stanley and Cummings Chesney, he was partner in the Stanley Electrical Manufacturing Company which became the General Electric transformer plant in Pittsfield Massachusetts.

The work done by Kelly gave a great impetus to the alternating current business. The of building transformers and generators of alternating currents was revolutionized and the work done by Kelly and his colleagues were the first to put polyphase motors into actual commercial service. The success naturally led to long-distance transmission work and the first long distance transmission plants in the world were undertaken on the instructions of Dr. Kelly. He was the first to make a hystereticaqlly stable steel which was even more important than his spectacular transmission work. He served as consulting engineer to the Stanley Electric Manufacturing Company until 1905, then helped found the Telelectric Piano Company in 1905. Kelly was later awarded the John Scott Medal, Franklin Institute in 1909 for his invention of the electric playing piano.

After accumulating seventy patents, and commercializing an electric player piano and a food dehydration system, he spent his later life supporting the cause of Irish nationalism, primarily by writing articles and editorials for the Irish World. From 1916 to 1918 he was president of the Mass. State Council Friends of Irish Freedom. From July to December 1921 he promoted a nationwide boycott of British goods.J.F. Kelly was awarded the John Scott Medal, Franklin Institute in 1909, for his invention of the Electric Playing Piano.

In 1892 he married Helen Fischer in New York City. They had two children Eoghan and Domnall. He died on October 15, 1922 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts from Angina at the age of 63.

Dr. Joe M Kelly. Oranmore, Co Galway.

The John Scott Legacy Medal and Premium, created in 1816, is a medal presented to men and women whose inventions improved the "comfort, welfare, and happiness of human kind" in a significant way.