First Female President of the American Society of Naturalists
Today is the anniversary of the death of the botanist Ruth Patrick who died on this day in 2013 at the age of 105.
Patrick was known for a little saying that went like this: you can’t live a day without diatoms. Diatoms are single-celled algae; this was Patrick's way of saying that all life is interconnected and that nature matters.
Ruth Patrick understood this premise very well. She was a leading voice in the recognition that the smallest organisms, living in communities, were more reliable than an individual species as indicators of pollution.
Ruth Patrick was born in Topeka, Kansas. Her father was an attorney, and when he wasn't working, he loved to take Ruth and her sister out into nature. The girls would collect samples from streams and ponds and then get a closer look in the brass microscope in their father's study. Later, Ruth would often say that her father had always encouraged her to leave the world a better place for having passed through it.
In 1975, Patrick was the first woman elected president of the American Society of Naturalists. She worked for 80 years at The Academy of Natural Sciences. In 1996, she was awarded the country's National Medal of Science from President Bill Clinton.