Lyle Thomas Alexander Papers

Dr. Lyle Thomas Alexander

Introduction

The Lyle Thomas Alexander Papers span the years 1924–1983. The collection is four linear
feet and occupies six archival boxes. Alexander’s family donated the collection to
Special Collections of the National Agricultural Library in July 2005. The materials are
in good condition with the exception of a single map that is cracked from folding and
age. There are no restrictions on use of the materials, but some items may not be
duplicated. The collection was arranged and described in 2006 by Lloyd A. Beers, Jr., a
graduate student at the College of Information Studies, University of Maryland College
Park.

Biographical Sketch

Lyle Thomas Alexander was born in Athens, Texas, on December 3, 1903. His family left
Texas in 1918 and moved to Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Alexander graduated with honors from
Prairie Grove High School in 1921. He worked in lumber camps throughout the region for
approximately two years before enrolling in college. Alexander attended the University
of Arkansas from September 1924 to May 1928, graduating with a bachelor of science
degree in chemistry. Upon his graduation from college, he accepted a position with the
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a chemist in the Bureau of Chemistry,
in Washington, D.C., where he began his career conducting studies in soil
classification. In the fall of 1930, Alexander enrolled as a graduate student in the
Department of Chemistry at the University of Maryland, College Park. He received his
Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1935. Alexander was employed by the USDA from June 1928
to April 1968 as a chemist and soil scientist.

On June 7, 1927, he married Helen Goodwin. The couple had four children; Thomas Goodwin
(b.1928), Jennie Lyle (b. 1930), Alice Maude (b. 1934), and Martha Sue (b. 1945). The
Alexander family lived in several locations in Prince George’s County, Maryland, but
settled in Hyattsville, Maryland, in 1937 after Alexander was transferred to the
Department’s Soil Conservation Laboratory in nearby Beltsville, Maryland. He worked in
Beltsville for the remainder of his career.

During his career, Alexander specialized in tropical soils. With the onset of the nuclear
age, Alexander developed a unique expertise in analyzing radioactive material present in
soils and its effect on agriculture. On March 31, 1954, he testified on the subject of
the contribution of atomic energy to agriculture before the United States Congress’s
Research and Development Subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. He also
became an expert in analyzing soil samples for the presence of radioactive fallout from
the testing of nuclear devices in the various parts of the world. In this regard, he was
assigned to work in cooperation with the Atomic Energy Commission. He traveled to
Australia, New Zealand, several Pacific islands, South America, the Saharan Africa,
Europe and the Near East to analyze the radioactive content soils and the subsequent
effects on agriculture.

Alexander retired from the USDA on April 20, 1968, after nearly forty years of service.
He rose to the position of Chief of the Soil Survey Laboratories, Soil Conservation
Service (SCS). His office and laboratory facilities were in Beltsville, Maryland, and he
was also responsible for the activities of the Soil Conservation Service laboratories in
Lincoln, Nebraska and Riverside, California. In recognition of his work, Alexander
received a number of professional awards. In 1950, he received the USDA Superior Service
Award. In 1956, he was awarded the USDA Distinguished Service Award. His alma mater, the
University of Arkansas, presented him with an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1958. In
1959, Alexander was a recipient of the National Civil Service League Career Achievement
Award.

After his retirement from the USDA, Alexander worked as a consultant for Resources for
the Future (RFF) as a collaborator on the topic of desalinization of seawater. The
outgrowth of this work was the publication of an article in the June 6, 1969 issue of
the journal Science, “Desalted Sea Water for Agriculture: Is it Economic?”

After retirement, Alexander and his wife moved to their home in North Eastham,
Massachusetts, where he spent the remainder of his years. He died in Boston on January
17, 1983, at age 79. Helen Alexander moved to California later that year. She died in
Chico, California on November 5, 2002.

Scope and Content Note

Lyle Thomas Alexander worked for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a
chemist and soil conservationist in the Soil Conservation Service. The collection
consists of personal papers donated to the National Agricultural Library in 2005 by the
family of Alexander. The collection is arranged in six series and is four linear feet,
occupying six archival boxes.

Series I includes a history of the Lyle Thomas Alexander family, assembled by his
daughter Alice Alexander King on the occasion of a family reunion held in Columbia,
Maryland, on November 26, 2004. This history comprises biographical information for both
Alexander and his wife Helen, as well as family members’ recollections and anecdotes.
The history is organized with an introduction and table of contents. This series also
contains personal work and education records.

In the later part of his career, Alexander received several professional awards,
fellowships designations, and an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the University
of Arkansas. These make up Series II of the collection.

Series III is Alexander’s written works. A complete bibliography of his published works
is included with copies of selected articles and presentations. An unpublished, two
volume travelogue of a soil survey assignment conducted in 12 African countries from
March through June 1951 offers a comprehensive account of Alexander’s work and
interactions with the local people. It is a diary style account of his trip complete
with original photographs taken by Alexander.

Series IV and V are official USDA photographs and news items respectively, dealing with
Alexander in the course of his daily work. Series VI contains three maps, one of which
was originally part of the unpublished travelogue (Series III), but is now housed with
the other maps. This is noted by a cross-reference sheet.

Series Description

Series I. Biographical Materials. 1924-2004. .5 Box.

This series includes a biography of Lyle Thomas Alexander, personal correspondence,
personal work records, work related travel, and retirement information. Other types of
materials include death and obituary information. The series contains three subseries
that are arranged by topic and then chronologically within each topic.

Subseries I.A. Biography. 1968-2004.

Subseries I.A. is composed of a family written biography entitled “The Lives of Lyle
Thomas Alexander and Helen Goodwin Alexander,” edited by their daughter Alice King. This
biography covers the lifetime of both individuals and includes 18 remembrances from
family members, a chronology of their lives, and a complete bibliographic listing of the
writings and publications of Lyle Thomas Alexander. Also included is a copy of a
congratulatory note regarding the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary written by President
Lyndon Baines Johnson, a copy of Alexander’s death certificate, published obituaries,
and correspondence acknowledging the family’s donations of Alexander’s personal books to
two university libraries.

Subseries I.B. Personal Work Records. 1938-1968.

Subseries I.B. contains work records relating to professional qualifications, payroll
changes, and paperwork related to temporary assignments and promotions. Included are
forms and correspondence relating to Alexander’s retirement from the government. Also
included is a listing of foreign work related travel and passports.

Subseries I.C. Education Records. 1924-1928.

Subseries I.C. contains Alexander’s record card for his undergraduate degree at the
University of Arkansas. This card shows Alexander’s college courses, the credit hours,
and grades obtained. Included in this subseries is a copy of Alexander’s Ph.D.
dissertation submitted to the University of Maryland and related notes and graphs.

Series II. Awards. 1950-1978. 1 Box.

This series includes announcements, invitations, programs, photographs, correspondence,
and award certificates and medallions received by Alexander over the course of his
professional life. The series contains seven subseries, each comprising the information
and award related to the ceremony and award presentation. The subseries are arranged by
topic in chronological order. The material within each subseries is arranged
chronologically.

Subseries II.A. United States Department of Agriculture, Superior Service Award. 1950.

Subseries II.A. contains an invitation and program for the 1950 honors awards ceremony
and includes the boxed engraved award medallion.

Subseries II.B. United States Department of Agriculture, Distinguished Service Award. 1956.

Subseries II.B. contains an invitation, programs, announcements, the boxed engraved award
medallion and matching lapel pin, and a photograph of the 1956 awards ceremony. In
addition, there are two congratulatory letters and photographs of departmental award
winners for the year.

Subseries II.C. University of Arkansas, Honorary Doctor of Laws. 1958.

Subseries II.C. contains materials relating to Alexander receiving an honorary doctor of
laws from the University of Arkansas. Included in this subseries are event programs, the
original degree with copies as well as the original commendation and citation with
copies, a photograph of the ceremony, a handwritten copy of an address given by
Alexander during a dinner for the awardees, and congratulatory correspondence.

Subseries II.D. American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow. 1958.

Subseries II.D contains the original fellowship certificate certifying Alexander as a
fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Subseries II.E. National Civil Service League-Career Service Award. 1959.

Subseries II.E. contains papers and photographs relating to Alexander receiving the
National Civil Service League Career Service Award in 1959. Included are copies of the
award and citation, photographs of the event, newspaper clippings and published
announcements of the award, correspondence regarding the award, congratulatory letters,
and replies. Alexander was invited the following year as a past recipient of the award
to the 1960 awards dinner. The invitation, programs, and seating chart for this dinner
are included.

Subseries II.F. American Society of Agronomy, Northeast Branch, Outstanding Contribution to Research Award. 1971.

Subseries II.F. contains the original award certificate and citation for the American
Society of Agronomy, Northeast Branch, Outstanding Contribution to Research Award presented to Alexander July 12, 1971.

Subseries II G. Soil Science Society of America Fellowship Award. 1977.

Subseries II.G. contains a letter from the Soil Science Society of America notifying
Alexander of his recognition as a fellow of the organization. The letter refers to a
certificate that is not part of the collection.

Series III. Writings. 1932-1982. 2.5 Boxes.

This series includes Alexander’s written works produced during his professional life. The
series contains two subseries, published and unpublished. Subseries III.A. is arranged
in chronological order by the date the publication, conference presentation or
testimony. Subseries III.B. is arranged in the order of the two parts of the work. The
original work is followed by a preservation photocopy.

Subseries III.A. Published Works. 1932-1982.

Subseries III.A. contains 18 published works from professional journals, conference
proceedings, congressional testimony and U.S. government reports produced over the span
of Alexander’s professional life. Also included is a bibliography of Alexander’s written
works listing 76 articles, conference papers, and book reviews provided by the Alexander
family in the family history described and found in Subseries I.A.

Subseries III.B. Unpublished Works. 1951.

Subseries III.B. contains an unpublished diary and travelogue entitled “West Africa and
the Belgian Congo: Pictures and Notes, March to June, 1951,” which is divided into two
parts. Part One covers soil sampling and evaluation conducted in Senegal, Sierra Leone,
French Guinea, Ivory Coast and Gold Coast. Part Two covers the same activity conducted
in Togo, Dahomey, Niger, Nigeria, Belgium Congo, French Equatorial Africa, and French
Cameroons. Included are the original type written pages with the original photographs as
well as a preservation photocopy of both parts.

Series IV. Photographs. ca. 1955. .5 Box.

Series IV contains official United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) photographs of
Alexander in portrait, candid work related settings, a professional panel, and a group
photograph with an accompanying list of names.

Series V. News Articles. 1955-1967. .5 Box.

This series includes two newspaper clippings and one magazine article relating to soil
sample surveys conducted by Alexander. This series is arranged alphabetically by
publication title.

Series VI. Maps. 1955-1968. 1 Box.

This series includes maps found within Alexander’s papers. One is a map of eastern South
America and the other is a map of soil and soil associations of Iraq. This series is
arranged chronologically by date of publication.

Container List

Series I. Biographical Materials. 1924-2004. .5 Box.

Subseries I.A. Biography. 1968-2004.
Box File Title Date(s)
1 1 "The Lives of Lyle Thomas Alexander and Helen Goodwin Alexander" (title page to page 31) 2004
1 2 "The Lives of Lyle Thomas Alexander and Helen Goodwin Alexander" (page 32-70) 2004
1 3 "The Lives of Lyle Thomas Alexander and Helen Goodwin Alexander" (page 71-92) 2004
1 4 "The Lives of Lyle Thomas Alexander and Helen Goodwin Alexander" (page 93 -114) 2004
1 5 Correspondence-Letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson (July 1, 1968) 1968
1 6 Correspondence-50th Anniversary (June 7, 1977) 1977
1 7 Death Certificate (February 23, 1983) 1983
1 8 Published Obituaries and Acknowledgment of Gifts 1983
Subseries I.B. Personal Work Records. 1938-1968.
Box File Title Date(s)
1 9 Roster of Scientists and Engineers in Service of the Government 1958
1 10 United States Patent (October 18, 1938) 1938
1 11 Payroll Change Slips 1947-1964
1 12 Notification of Personnel Action 1951-1960
1 13 Request for Personal Action 1951
1 14 GS Grade Pay Scale 1961
1 15 Application for Retirement and Related Correspondence 1967-1968
1 16 Passports 1938-1951
1 17 Passports 1955-1956
1 18 Passports 1959-1968
1 19 Foreign Travel and Experience 1938-1962
Subseries I.C. Education Records. 1924-1928.
Box File Title Date(s)
1 20 Education-Classes and Grades at the University of Arkansas 1924-1928
1 21 Education-Ph.D. Dissertation 1935
1 22 Education-Notes Pertaining to Dissertation and Two Copies of Dissertation 1935

Series II. Awards. 1950-1978. 1 Box.

Subseries II.A. United States Department of Agriculture, Superior Service Award. 1950.
Box File Title Date(s)
1 23 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Superior Service Award May 25,1950 1950
1 24 USDA Superior Service Award Medallion (See Oversize Box 6) 1950
Subseries II.B. United States Department of Agriculture, Distinguished Service Award. 1956.
Box File Title Date(s)
1 25 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Distinguished Service Award (June 5,
1956)
1956
1 26 Soil Conservation Service Department Award Winners-Correspondence 1956
1 27 Soil Conservation Service Department Award Winners-Photographs (2) 1956
1 28 USDA Distinguished Service Award Medallion (June 5, 1956) (See Oversize Box 6) 1956
Subseries II.C. University of Arkansas, Honorary Doctor of Laws. 1958.
Box File Title Date(s)
1 29 University of Arkansas Honorary Doctor of Laws, Luncheon, Baccalaureate and Commencement Programs 1958
1 30 University of Arkansas Honorary Doctor of Laws-Original Degree 1958
1 31 University of Arkansas Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree 1958
1 32 University of Arkansas Honorary Doctor of Laws-Commendation and Citation (original and copies) 1958
1 33 University of Arkansas Honorary Doctor of Laws-Transmittal Letter and Photograph 1958
1 34 University of Arkansas Honorary Doctor of Laws-Talk Given at the Presidents Dinner for Awardees 1958
1 35 University of Arkansas Honorary Doctor of Laws-Congratulatory Note 1958
Subseries II.D. American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow. 1958.
Box File Title Date(s)
1 36 American Association for the Advancement of Science-Fellowship Certificate (July 9,1958) 1958
Subseries II.E. National Civil Service League-Career Service Award. 1959.
Box File Title Date(s)
2 37 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-Correspondence 1959
2 38 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-Invitation 1959
2 39 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-Congressional Record (February 2, 1959) 1959
2 40 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-Newspaper Clippings 1959
2 41 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-Dinner Program 1959
2 42 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-Award and Citation 1959
2 43 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-Photographs 1959
2 44 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-USDA Bulletin 1959
2 45 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-Good Government 1959
2 46 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-AG News 1959
2 47 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-Invitation 1960
2 48 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-Program 1960
2 49 National Civil Service League Career Service Award-Dinner Seating List 1960
Subseries II.F. American Society of Agronomy, Northeast Branch, Outstanding Contribution to Research Award. 1971.
Box File Title Date(s)
2 50 Northeastern Branch, American Society of Agronomy-Outstanding Achievement Award (July 12, 1971) 1971
Subseries II G. Soil Science Society of America Fellowship Award. 1977.
Box File Title Date(s)
2 51 Soil Science Society of America Fellowship Award (June 3, 1977) 1977

Series III. Writings. 1932-1982. 2.5 Boxes.

Subseries III.A. Published Works. 1932-1982.
Box File Title Date(s)
2 52 Alexander, Lyle T., and Horace G. Byers. "Hydrogen From Iron and Water at Room Temperature and a Suggested Lecture Experiment." Journal of Chemical Education 9, no.5 (May 1932): 916-918. Reprint. 1932
2 53 "Vapor Pressure-Water Content Relations for Certain Typical Soil Colloids." Abstract from a thesis submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Maryland, 1936. 1936
2 54 Nikiforoff, C.C., and Lyle T. Alexander. "Hardpan and Claypan in the San Joaquin Soil." Soil Science 53, no. 3 (March 1942): 157-172. 1942
2 55 Alexander, Lyle T., G.T. Faust and S.B. Hendricks, et. al., "Relationship of the Clay Minerals Halloysite and Endellite." The American Mineralogist 28, no. 1 (January 1943). Reprint. 1943
2 56 Reed, J. Fielding, and Lyle T. Alexander. "Factors Influencing Desirable Levels of Plant Food in Fertilizers." The American Fertilizer (1947). Reprint. 1947
2 57 "1948 Field Results With Certain Radioactive Materials as Plant Stimulants." United States Department of Agriculture (May 1943). 1949
2 58 Alexander, Lyle T., and H.E. Middleton. "Soil as a Physical System." American Society of Agronomy Monograph, Soil Physical Conditions and Plant Growth. Academic Press (1952): 1-41. 1952
2 59 "The Contribution of Atomic Energy to Agriculture." Congress of the United States, Research and Development Subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. Statement before the committee by Alexander. (March 31, 1954) 1954
2 60 Alexander, Lyle T. "Soil and Meteorological Aspects of Fission Product Fallout." Paper presented at the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Soil Conservation Society of America in Ashville, North Carolina. 1958
2 61 Alexander, Lyle T., Edward P. Hardy, Jr., and Hal A. Hollister. "Radioisotopes in Soils: Particularly with Reference to Strontium." Published by the Center for Continuing Study, University of Minnesota. (October 1959) 1959
2 62 Alexander, Lyle T., Robert H. Jordan, and Robert F. Dever, et.al. "Strontium-90 on the Earths Surface." United States Atomic Energy Commission Office of Technical Information, ID-6567. 1961
2 63 Fleming, John F., and L.T. Alexander. "Sulfur Acidity in the South Carolina Tidal Marsh Soils." Soil Science Society of America Proceedings 25, no. 2 (March-April 1961): 94-95. Reprint. 1961
2 64 Hogue, D.E., et. al. "Comparative Utilization of Dietary Calcium and Strontium-90 by Pigs and Sheep." Journal of Animal Science 20, no. 5 (August 1961): 514-517. Reprint. 1961
2 65 Hardy, Edward, and Lyle T. Alexander. "Rainfall and Deposition of Strontium-90 in Clallam County, Washington." Science 136, no. 3519 (June 8, 1962): 881-882. Reprint. 1962
2 66 Reitemeier, R.F., Hal Hollister, and L.T. Alexander. "The Extent and Significance of Soil Contamination with Radionuclides." Agriculture and the Quality of Our Environment, a symposium presented at the 133rd meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 1966, Nyle C. Brady, editor. AAAS Publication 85, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C., 1967. 1967
2 67 Meyer, Milton W., et. al., "Strontium-90 on the Earths Surface. VI Summary and Interpretation of a World-Wide Soil Sampling Program: 1961-1967 Results." United States Atomic Energy Commission, Division of Technical Information, TID-24341. (May 1968) 1968
2 68 Alexander, Lyle T., "The Price of Pure Water." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 25, no. 6 (June 1969): 41. Book Review (original publication and reprint copies). 1969
2 69 Clawson, Marion, Hans H. Landsberg, and Lyle T. Alexander., "Desalted Sea Water for Agriculture: Is it Economic?" Science 164 (June 6, 1969): 1141-1148. Reprinted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 1969
2 70 Note and New England Journal of Medicine abstract, referencing a published article by Alexander. 1982
2 71 Bibliography of Publications-Final Update 2004
2 72 Bibliography of Publications-Pre 2004 Versions n.d.
Subseries III.B. Unpublished Works. 1951.
Box File Title Date(s)
2 73 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part One, No. 1 1951
2 74 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part One, No. 2 1951
2 75 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part One, No. 3 1951
3 76 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part One, No. 4 1951
3 77 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part One, No. 5 1951
3 78 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part One, No. 6. Map removed. (See Oversize, Box 5, Folder 102) 1951
3 79 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part One, No. 7 1951
3 80 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part One, No. 8 1951
3 81 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part One, No. 9 1951
3 82 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part One, No. 10 1951
3 83 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part One, No. 11 1951
3 84 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 1 1951
3 85 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 2 1951
3 86 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 3 1951
4 87 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 4 1951
4 88 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 5 1951
4 89 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 6 1951
4 90 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 7 1951
4 91 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 8 1951
4 92 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 9 1951
4 93 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 10 1951
4 94 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 11 1951
4 95 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 12 1951
4 96 West Africa and the Belgian Congo-Part Two, No. 13 1951
Series IV. Photographs. ca. 1955. .5 Box.
Box File Title Date(s)
4 97 Photographs-Official ca. 1955
Series V. News Articles. 1955-1967. .5 Box.
Box File Title Date(s)
4 98 Manchester Times, September 9, 1955 and October 27, 1967 1955, 1967
5 99 Saturday Evening Post containing and article entitled "Fallout: The Silent Killer, How Soon is Too Late?" 1959
Series VI. Maps. 1951-1968. 1 Box.
Box File Title Date(s)
5 100 Eastern South America: Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and the Guianas. National Geographic Society, Washington: March 1955. 1955
5 101 Soils and Soil Associations Map of Iraq (November 1968). Prepared by Flayeh Hassan Altaie, Section of Soil Survey and Land Classification, Ministry of Agriculture, Bagdad, Iraq. 1968
5 102 Carte Pédologique. Concession I.F.A.C. Dalaba. R. Maignien. (From Box 3, Folder 78) ca. 1951
Non-standard Sized Box
Box Item Title Date(s)
6 1 USDA Superior Service Award Medallion (From Box 1, Folder 24) 1950
6 2 USDA Distinguished Service Award Medallion (From Box 1, Folder 28) 1956

Selected Bibliography

Sources Used for Finding Aid:

King, Alice, ed. “The Lives of Lyle Thomas Alexander and Helen Goodwin Alexander.” Alexander, Lyle Thomas, Papers. Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

Related Collections at the National Agricultural Library

Kellogg, Charles Edwin, Papers and Book Collection. Manuscript Collection 91.

Related Collections at Other Institutions

Alexander, Lyle Thomas. “Vapor Pressure Relations of Certain Typical Soil Colloids.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park, 1935.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (Record Group 114). National Archives and Records Administration. http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/114.html.