Dr. Ruth Myrtle Patrick is 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.
Ruth’s father often took Ruth and her sister on Sunday afternoons to collect specimens, especially diatoms, from steams. She attended the Sunset Hill School in Kansas City, Missouri, graduating in 1925. Her mother insisted that she attend Coker College, a women's school in Hartsford, South Carolina, but her father arranged for her to attend summer courses in 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 master's degree in 1931, followed by a Ph.D. in 1934.
|Great Dismal Swamp|
Ruth's research in fossilized diatoms showed that the Great Dismal Swamp between Virginia and NorthCarolina 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 ten 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 Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences in 1993, the National Medal of Science in 1996, the Heinz Award Chairman's Medal in 2002, and the A.C. Redfield Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center in Aiken, South Carolina, is named after her.