Ruth Patrick PA conservation character

Dr. Ruth Patrick

November 26, 1907 - September 23, 2013

Born in Topeka, Kansas, Ruth spent her childhood in the Midwest. Her father instilled in her a love of nature, taking her and her sister on weekend expeditions to collect samples from nearby streams. She attended the Sunset Hill School in Kansas City, Missouri, graduating in 1925. Afterwards, she attended Coker College in South Carolina, where she graduated with a biology degree in 1929. She received both her masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Virginia.

Working as a botanist and limnologist with a focus on diatoms (microscopic algae), Ruth developed ways to measure the health of freshwater ecosystems and established a number of research facilities. During the Great Depression, Ruth volunteered as the curator for the Academy of Natural Sciences in the Microscopy Department. In 1937, she was appointed the curator of the Academy’s Leidy Microscopical Collection where she ventured to unify the diverse collections into one single Diatom Herbarium, and then increase the size and scope of the Herbarium through expeditions and acquisitions.

In 1947, Ruth founded the Limnology Department of the Academy of Natural Sciences in order to study water pollution using the method of analyzing the diversity of algae, plants, and animals. Regarded as a milestone, she used this approach to study the Conestoga River Basin in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1948. The Limnology Department was later renamed the Patrick Center for Environmental Research in her honor.

Some other of her achievements include: Director of the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company, an advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson on water pollution and to President Ronald Reagan on acid rain, the first woman and environmentalist on the DuPont Board of Directors in 1975, the first woman chair to the Academy of Natural Sciences Board of Trustees from 1973-1976, professor of limnology and botany at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of hundreds of scientific papers.

Read more about her work at Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences. (