Environmental pioneer Ruth Patrick dies at age 105Patrick, whose studies of freshwater ecology in the 1930s helped galvanize the later environmental movement and whose success in a profession dominated by men charted a course for other female scientists, died Monday at a retirement community in Lafayette Hill, Pa.
By: Washington Post report, Washington Post
Ruth Patrick, whose studies of freshwater ecology in the 1930s helped galvanize the later environmental movement and whose success in a profession dominated by men charted a course for other female scientists, died Monday at a retirement community in Lafayette Hill, Pa. She was 105.
The Academy of Natural Sciences, a museum and research institution in Philadelphia now affiliated with Drexel University, announced the death but did not disclose the cause. She was associated with the academy for nearly 80 years while also teaching science classes for more than three decades at the University of Pennsylvania.
Patrick, who in 1996 received the nation’s highest award for scientific achievement, began focusing on ecology at a time when the dangers of pollution barely pierced the national consciousness. Women were so rare in the sciences that when she sought a job at the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1934 — the same year she received a doctorate in botany from the University of Virginia — she was told she would not be paid. She was also advised not to wear lipstick to work.
It was about seven years before she earned a salary at the academy. She became, in 1973, the first female chair of the academy’s board of trustees.
“My great aim,” Patrick once told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “has been to be able to diagnose the presence of pollution and develop means of cleaning things up.” Her work drew scientific and political attention to the problem of water pollution, and she later became one of the early scientists to speak out about global warming.
Patrick’s work led Congress to pass the 1972 Clean Water Act, which she helped write.
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