Ruth Patrick

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Ruth Patrick
File:Ruth Patrick 1976.JPG
Patrick in 1976
Born (1907-11-26)November 26, 1907
Topeka, Kansas
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Fields Botanist and Limnologist
Institutions Academy of Natural Sciences
Alma mater University of Virginia
Notable awards National Medal of Science
Lewis L. Dollinger Pure Environment Award (1970)

Ruth Myrtle Patrick (November 26, 1907 – September 23, 2013) was a botanist and limnologist specializing in diatoms and freshwater ecology, who developed ways to measure the health of freshwater ecosystems and established a number of research facilities.

Early life and education

Ruth Patrick was the daughter of Frank Patrick, a banker and lawyer. Frank had a degree in botany from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and was a hobbyist scientist. He often took Ruth and her sister on Sunday afternoons to collect specimens, especially diatoms, from streams. Ruth attended the Sunset Hill School in Kansas City, Missouri, graduating in 1925. Ruth's mother insisted that she attend Coker College, a women's school in Hartsville, South Carolina, but her father arranged for her to attend summer courses, through fear that Coker would not provide satisfactory education in the sciences. When she graduated in 1929, she then enrolled in the University of Virginia, earning a master's degree in 1931, followed by a Ph.D. in 1934.[1]


Ruth's research in fossilized diatoms showed that the Great Dismal Swamp between Virginia and North Carolina was once a forest, which had been flooded by seawater. Similar research proved that the Great Salt Lake was not always a saline lake. During the Great Depression, she volunteered to work as a curator for the Academy of Natural Sciences, where she worked for no pay for eight years. She continued to work there for many years and was regarded as a talented and outstanding scientific administrator.

Her work has been widely published and she has received numerous awards for her scientific achievements, including the Eminent Ecologist Award from the Ecological Society of America in 1972, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1976,[2] the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences in 1993,[3] the National Medal of Science in 1996, the Heinz Award Chairman's Medal in 2002,[4] and the A.C. Redfield Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.[5] The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center in Aiken, South Carolina, is named after her. The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography gives out a Ruth Patrick Award "to honor outstanding research by a scientist in the application of basic aquatic science principles to the identification, analysis and/or solution of important environmental problems."[6] This botanist is denoted by the author abbreviation R.M.Patrick when citing a botanical name.[7]

On November 17, 2007, a gala was held in honor of Dr. Patrick's upcoming 100th birthday at The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. Notable guests included Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell.[8]

Personal life

Patrick was married twice. She retained her maiden name when writing scientific papers, at her father's request. Her husbands were Charles Hodge IV and Lewis H. Van Dusen, Jr.[9] With Charles Hodge IV she had one son. Charles was an entomologist and a direct descendent of Benjamin Franklin.

Patrick died at a retirement home in 2013. She was 105.[10]


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  4. The Heinz Awards, Ruth Patrick profile
  5. A.C. Redfield Lifetime Achievement Award
  6. Ruth Patrick Award
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  8. Academy Throws Glittering Gala for Scientist Dr. Ruth Patrick’s 100th Birthday
  10. Ruth Patrick, ecology pioneer, dies at 105

External links