Joseph Hoeing Kastle received a Bachelor of Science in 1884 and a master’s degree in 1886 from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky, now the University of Kentucky. He went on to receive a doctorate in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University.
Kastle, a native Lexingtonian, returned to UK as a professor in 1888 and led the general, organic and agricultural chemistry program until 1905 when he left to become chief of the Division of Chemistry at the U.S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service.
The UK Alumni Association traces its history to 1889, when Kastle persuaded a few of his fellow faculty members who were also UK graduates to establish an alumni club, organizing the first group of alumni with the purpose of joining together to support the university. He served as the organization’s president from 1891-1902.
From 1909 to 1911, he was chair of chemistry at the University of Virginia. In 1911, he returned to UK to head the Department of Chemical Research in the Agricultural Experiment Station. One year later, he was named director of the experiment station and held that role until his death in 1916 at age 53. He was also dean of the College of Agriculture from 1912 until just a few weeks prior to his death.
While he served several years as an administrator and leader, he was better known nationally and internationally for his achievements in chemical research and teaching. Kastle authored more than 100 papers and was a regular contributor to farm journals and daily press. Some of his most important work was in oxidases, a group of enzymes that bring about biological oxidation.
In a tribute to Kastle in the 1916 annual experiment station report, he was described as inspiring his students as well as associates and fellow workers. It noted “his contagious enthusiasm and untiring industry was as irresistible as his scientific foresight was remarkable.”
Kastle Hall on the UK campus was named in his honor.