Vincent Ellis McKelvey

Vincent Ellis McKelvey

McKelvey as Director of USGS, 1971
Born (1916-04-06)April 6, 1916
Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, USA
Died January 23, 1987(1987-01-23) (aged 70)
St. Cloud, Florida, USA
Nationality American
Fields Geology
Institutions U.S. Geological Survey
Alma mater Syracuse University
University of Wisconsin
9th Director of the United States Geological Survey
In office
1971 (1971)  1978 (1978)
Preceded by William Thomas Pecora
Succeeded by Henry William Menard

Vincent Ellis McKelvey (April 6, 1916 – January 23, 1987) was an American geologist. He was married to Genevieve Bowman McKelvey. They had one son, Gregory McKelvey of Spokane, Washington. Dr. McKelvey was an earth scientist who spent 46 years with the United States Geological Survey. Dr. McKelvey was recognized as an international authority on deep-sea mineral deposits. From 1968 to 1982, he served as scientific adviser and senior deputy to the United States delegation to the Law of the Sea Conference of the United Nations, where fellow delegates often depended on his ability to render complex scientific issues into plain English.

He joined the Geological Survey, a branch of the Department of the Interior, in 1941. He was placed in charge of its explorations for uranium after World War II, was assistant chief geologist for economic and foreign geology by 1962 and was named senior research geologist three years later. Dr. McKelvey was named chief geologist of the Geological Survey in 1971 shortly before he became its ninth director, a post he held through 1977.[1]

The McKelvey diagram (or box), a visual representation of how to classify a particular mineral resource based on the value of its production (economic, marginal, etc.) and the geologic certainty of its presence (measured, inferred, hypothetical, etc.), is named after him.

USGS career

In 1971, after William Thomas Pecora became Under Secretary of the Interior, Chief Geologist Vincent E. McKelvey, a career scientist with the Survey since 1941, became Director. McKelvey, a graduate of Syracuse University with a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, had served in several research and administrative capacities in the Geological Survey. He was internationally known for his studies of phosphates, had headed the Survey's program of exploration and research for the Atomic Energy Commission for several years, had been deeply involved in sometimes controversial estimates of long-range energy and mineral-resource needs, and had most recently been engaged in studies of seabed resources.

McKelvey's term as Director was marked by an increase in multidisciplinary studies and in the diversity and complexity of Geological Survey operations, as well as an increased effort to make scientific information acquired through years of research available in a form most easily used in the solution of such contemporary problems. In 1973, the Geological Survey moved its National Headquarters from downtown Washington to a new building designed expressly for its needs in Reston, Virginia. It took on primary responsibility for operational research in seismology and geomagnetism by agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and 10 units of NOAA were transferred to the Geological Survey.

In 1976, Congress transferred jurisdiction of the Petroleum Reserve in Alaska from the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Interior, effective June 1, 1977. Responsibility for administration of the continuing petroleum exploration program on the Reserve and operation of the South Barrow Gas Field was delegated to the Director of the Survey. The new activity brought with it a 50-percent increase in funds, but most of the increase was for contractual services.

In September 1977, Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus announced that he had accepted McKelvey's resignation as Director but that McKelvey would remain with the Survey as a research scientist.[2] From 1978 until his death, Dr. McKelvey continued to work as senior research geologist for the Geological Survey and also taught at the Florida Institute of Technology during the early 1980s.

Awards and honors



  1. Saxon, Wolfgang (1987-01-26). "Obituary: Dr. Vincent E. McKelvey, 70; Once Led Geological Agency". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-10.
  2. USGS History: A New Age Begins - accessed January 10, 2009
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Geophysics: The Leading Edge of Exploration - accessed January 10, 2009

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