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In Memoriam | Winter 2013

In Memoriam: 1930s

Notices sorted by graduation date

Ruth Patrick (Grad ’31, ’34) of Philadelphia died Sept. 23, 2013. She was a freshwater ecologist whose pioneering research on water pollution set the stage for the modern environmental movement. She developed key methods to monitor water pollution and to understand its effects on aquatic organisms of all kinds. Ms. Patrick is credited, along with author Rachel Carson, as being largely responsible for drawing widespread attention to the health of the environment. She worked for eight decades at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia and taught botany and limnology at the University of Pennsylvania for 35 years. At the Academy of Natural Sciences, she established the department of limnology, now the Patrick Center for Environmental Research, and studied diatoms (single-celled plants), establishing them as key indicators of environmental quality. She amassed a collection of diatoms that continues to be a major resource for the Academy of Natural Sciences, taught limnology and botany at the University of Pennsylvania for more than 35 years and wrote more than 200 scientific papers and a number of books on the environment, including the five-book series The Rivers of the United States. Ms. Patrick’s research demonstrated that biological diversity can be used to measure environmental impact, and she was an adviser to President Lyndon Johnson on water pollution and to President Ronald Reagan on acid rain. In the 1960s, she worked with Congress to help draft legislation that resulted in the Clean Water Act, and for the next 30 years, she continued to make frequent appearances on Capitol Hill as an environmental expert. Throughout her career, she received many of the nation’s top science awards and honors, among them the 1996 National Medal of Science. She remained a familiar sight at the Academy, where she continued to work on a book series until recently, often eating lunch in the museum café. Survivors include a son, three stepchildren, three grandchildren, and numerous step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren.