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Wiley, Harvey Washington, 1844-1930



  • Existence: October 18, 1844 - June 30, 1930

Biographical Information

Harvey Washington Wiley was born October 18, 1844 near Kent, Indiana. In 1863, Wiley enrolled in Hanover College and left the following year to join the Union Army as a member of Company I of the 137th Indiana Volunteers. In April of 1865, he returned to Hanover and graduated in 1867.

Wiley joined the faculty of Northwestern Christian University (later known as Butler University) and began medical studies at Indiana Medical College. Wiley graduated from medical school in 1871 and taught briefly at a high school in Indianapolis before becoming Professor of Chemistry at Indiana Medical College. In 1872, Wiley took a year off to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree at Harvard and then returned to Indiana to resume his duties at the medical college. At the same time, Wiley began teaching chemistry at Northwestern Christian University and Indiana University's newly formed Indianapolis Medical College. In 1874, Wiley left Indianapolis to take the first chair of chemistry at the state's newest institution of higher learning, Purdue University.

Wiley's first task at Purdue was to prepare the university's entrance exams, a job which had apparently been overlooked. Wiley taught chemistry and physics and became a very popular faculty member among the students. As faculty advisor, Wiley was instrumental in forming the university's first newspaper, The Purdue, in 1875 and organizing Purdue's first military cadet program, the "Purdue Army," in 1877. Wiley became a familiar sight around campus after bringing the first bicycle into Lafayette, a 1880 high wheel Harvard, which he rode to and from class. This was the final straw for the Board of Trustees, who reprimanded the professor:

"We have been greatly pleased with the excellence of his instruction, and are pleased with the popularity he enjoys with the students. We are deeply grieved, however, at his conduct. He has put on a uniform and played with the boys, much to the discredit of the dignity of a professor. But the most grave offense of all has lately come to our attention. Professor Wiley has bought a bicycle. Imagine my feelings and those of the other members of the board on seeing one of our professors dressed up like a monkey and astride a cartwheel riding along our streets."

Despite the Board of Trustees' displeasure, Wiley enjoyed his work at Purdue. Besides teaching he began studying sugars which resulted in a commissioned report for the Indiana State Board of Health on the varieties of sugars and syrups available in the state.

In 1883, Wiley left Purdue to become the Chief Chemist in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Wiley continued his research in sugars and syrups and eventually became interested in food of all types. One of his main concerns was the lack of pure food products available in the market which eventually led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. In 1912, Wiley resigned from the USDA and took over leadership of the Good Housekeeping Magazine Labs, where he established the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

Wiley remained a bachelor until his sixty-sixth year when he married Anna Campbell Kelton in 1911. The couple had two sons, Harvey Washington Jr. and John Preston. Harvey W. Wiley died in his home on June 30, 1930 and is buried at Arlington Cemetery.


An Autobiography. New York: Bobs-Merrill Company, 1930.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Horton B. Knoll papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 521
Scope and Contents The Horton B. Knoll papers document Knoll's research, working papers, notes and typescripts for his books, A record of a university in the war years, 1941-1945, published in 1947, and The Story of Purdue Engineering, published in 1963. Also included among the papers is research material, working papers, notes and information related to Purdue presidents Owen, Smart, Stone, Elliott, and Hovde. There is also information Knoll compiled for his intended biography of John Purdue, and historical...
Dates: 1865 - 1981; Majority of material found within 1940 - 1963

The Purdue student newspaper (1875) collection

 Collection — Box: Communal Collections 70, Placement: 3
Identifier: MSP 312
Scope and Contents Includes three issues of The Purdue student newspaper of 1875.
Dates: April 1875 - June 1875

Harvey W. Wiley papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSF 416
Scope and Contents This collection covers the career of the 'Father of the FDA,' Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, including articles, publications, and correspondence by our about Wiley.
Dates: 1878 - 2003