Charles C. Boley

1883 to 1953
Coal Engineering

Charles Chilton Boley was born on July 3, 1911, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He earned his B.S. degree in 1935, the M.S. degree in 1938 in mineral engineering, and the Ph.D. degree in engineering in 1947 at the University of Illinois. He joined the Illinois State Geological Survey in 1935 as an Associate Mining Engineer. He worked on the suitability of Illinois coals for their use in stoker boilers and coal preparation. He s, however, better known as the person to develop the first computer procedures to record and process the coal data that the Survey had accumulated. The University of Illinois acquired its first IBM computer in the 1930s for bookkeeping purposes. G.H. Cady, who was then head of the Coal Division, envisioned that the computer could be useful for handling large volumes of scientific data. He asked Boley to investigate this potential application. Boley was once described as "a mathematician of the first order" and quickly mastered the techniques to record coal data. He was the first person to use the computer for research at the Survey, and he used tall stacks of IBM punch cards to input data into the early machine.

Boley left the Survey in 1946 to serve as a coal research engineer at the Natural Resources Research Center at the University of Wyoming until 1950. Afterward, he became a coal preparation specialist for the Supreme Command Allied Powers and then a solid fuels technologist for the U.S. Army in Japan (1950 to 1956). He then worked as a coal technologist for the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Colorado, and later he was a Staff Engineer at the Grand Forks Energy Center (1956 to 1977). He married Mary Johnson. At the time of his passing, he was a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and a member of the U.S. Handball Association.

Although Boley's tenure at the Survey lasted only 11 years, his research on the utilization of the early IBM computer for electronic data processing left a lasting legacy. Also, as part of his scientific legacy, Boley's son, Charles D. Boley, is a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Honored by: 
Jack A. Simon
Citation Contributed by: 
William R. Roy