Albert John Kelly

McGill's weatherman

Albert J. Kelly, “the weatherman,” was born May 15th, 1888, in Edmonton, Alberta. He graduated from McGill University with a B.Sc. in Civil Engineering in 1911 and went on to join staff the next year as assistant to Professor C.H. McLeod, at the Observatory and in the Department of Surveying and Geodesy.  He later became Director of the Observatory, an incredible feature of McGill’s contribution to academic research on weather and climate.

When war broke out in 1914, he quickly volunteered to join the war effort.  He served in the 6th University Company of H.R.H. Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. Kelly was demobilized in March 1919, with rank of Lieutenant.

After the war, he returned to McGill and served as an Assistant Professor, where he became a meteorology authority.  He was portrayed as a wizard, navigating tools like the barograph, the marine chronograph, and time signal relays transmitted all over Canada and Canadian Pacific Railway systems.

Upon his passing in 1945, Kelly was warmly remembered by his McGill community at a memorial service and eulogized as a “well-balanced personality, a sympathetic listener, a valued, sincere and understanding friend of both students and colleagues.”

A McGill research project DRAW (‘Data Rescue: Archival and Weather’) continues to honour his legacy several decades later by making his weather observations available in database form to help research into climate change.

Weather Wizard at Work, A.J. Kelly, seated with his equipment, including a ​master clock. Clipping from Albert J. Kelly Fonds. MG3054. ​McGill Archives.
Diary in Albert J. Kelly Fonds. MG3054. McGill Archives. McGill University.
He quietly noted changes in weather, the dates of his granted leaves, his participation in campaigns, and solemnly inscribed the names of fallen comrades.