Professor Joseph H. Ellis was born in Coventry, England. He came to Canada as a young man and worked on a farm in the Glenboro, Manitoba area and on plots at the Brandon Experimental Farm. He received his B.S.A. from the Manitoba Agricultural College and a M.Sc. degree from the University of Minnesota.

Professor Ellis began his professional career in 1918 as an experimentalist and lecturer in the field husbandry department of the Manitoba Agricultural College. In 1927, the soils department was established with Professor Ellis as its first head. At this time, he initiated a survey of the soils of Manitoba involving their systematic mapping and classification; many of his concepts have been adopted in the Canadian soil classification system.

Dr. Ellis was accorded many honours in his lifetime. He was honoured by a doctorate from the University of Manitoba. He was a Charter Member and Fellow of the Agricultural Institute of Canada, a Fellow of the Canadian Society of Soil Science, a Fellow of the Appraisal Institute of Canada, a member of the British Society of Soil Science and the American Society of Agronomy. He was also the recipient of the Centennial Award.

Dr. Ellis served Manitoba with distinction as a teacher, scientist, popular lecturer, writer and consultant for more than 50 years. However, his greatest contribution was his influence on his students. His dynamic and colourful personality and his enthusiasm for his subject made a lasting impression on all who studied under him.