Rolla Kent Beattie (1875-1960), botanist and plant pathologist, was born in Ashland, Ohio. Beattie received his A.B. degree from Cotner University in 1895, and his B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Nebraska in 1896 and 1898, respectively. While at Nebraska, Beattie came under the influence of Charles Edwin Bessey, and remained a disciple of the Besseyan school of botany throughout his career.
Beattie taught high school in Colorado and Wyoming before becoming an instructor of botany at Washington State College in 1899. At Washington State he collaborated with Charles Vancouver Piper on researching the flora of Washington, Idaho, and the Northwest coast. In 1903 Beattie succeeded Piper as department head and botanist at the College's Agricultural Experiment Station.
Beattie began his studies on plant diseases while at Washington State. His studies eventually led to his working intermittently for the Federal Horticultural Board and the Bureau of Plant Industry, United States Department of Agriculture. While working for these federal agencies, Beattie helped establish inspection procedures for plants and undertook the task of solving the chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease.
Beattie retired in 1945 and began a study of David Douglas, pioneer plant explorer in the Pacific Northwest. Ill health prevented Beattie from completing his task.