Ruth Patrick papers
Held at: Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia [Contact Us]1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA, 19103
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1907, Dr. Ruth Myrtle Patrick spent most of her childhood in Kansas City, Missouri. Her interest in the natural sciences was shaped by her father's passion for the natural world. As a young girl, she would accompany her father and sister on collecting excursions and at the age of seven she received her first microscope.
Dr. Patrick obtained a degree in biology from Coker College, South Carolina, in 1929 and advanced degrees (M.S. and PhD, 1934) from the University of Virginia. Her long association with the Academy of Natural Sciences began in 1933 as an unpaid researcher and volunteer curator of the Microscopy Department. She was finally put onto the payroll in 1945. A formal employee record for Dr. Patrick dating her employment to 1942 exists in this collection.
In 1937, Dr. Patrick became curator of the Academy's Leidy Microscopical Collection and promptly reinvigorated the institution's research in diatoms (a taxonomically and ecologically important group of microscopic algae). Part of this renewal was the ambitious effort to unify the diverse collections and other holdings into a single Diatom Herbarium. In addition, she expanded the size and scope of the collection through a series of collecting expeditions and acquisitions. The Academy's Diatom Herbarium is—in large measure because of her efforts—one of the largest and most important diatom collections in the world.
Her work with diatoms informed Dr. Patrick that the species of these microscopic algae present in streams reflected the streams' environmental conditions. In particular, their variety and species composition could indicate the degree to which a stream was polluted. Moreover, she was aware that similar information about other organisms, such as aquatic insects and fish, could be used to evaluate water quality. At a time when other scientists were just beginning to investigate how pollution affected single organisms or limited groups of organisms, she was considering analyzing the composition and diversity of a variety of algae, plants, and animals to determine the health of streams.
In 1947, Dr. Patrick founded the Limnology Department at the Academy of Natural Sciences in order to implement this approach to studying water pollution. One of the department's first projects—widely regarded as a scientific milestone of environmental research—was a 1948 biological survey of the Conestoga River basin near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Within the next few years, additional stream surveys and other studies were conducted in South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas. Dr. Patrick led the Limnology Department from its founding until 1973. A decade later, it was renamed the Patrick Center for Environmental Research in her honor.
Environmental research of any kind was a novelty during the 1950s and 1960s, but Dr. Patrick's Limnology Department was unusual for another reason. It was a pioneer in multidisciplinary research. Instead of specializing in one discipline, the department possessed expertise in all the major groups of aquatic organisms as well as in the analysis of a stream's chemical and physical characteristics. The department was also notable for technical innovations. The most famous of these is the diatometer, a device invented by Dr. Patrick in 1954 to systematically sample and analyze diatom communities.
Dr. Patrick had a cordial relationship with government and industry and often worked as a consultant for both. In the 1950s, she began a long relationship with DuPont when the Atomic Energy Commission asked her to assess the ecological status of the Savannah River in the vicinity of the chemical company’s plant for producing nuclear materials. In 1975 she became the first woman and the first environmentalist on the DuPont Board of Directors. She was director of the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company and an advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson on water pollution and President Ronald Reagan on acid rain.
From 1973 to 1976 she was the first woman to chair the Academy of Natural Sciences' Board of Trustees and later held the Academy’s Francis Boyer Chair of Limnology. She formed the Environmental Associates, a group of corporate executives concerned about environmental effects of industrial activities. She 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 Power So Great, Colors of Tomorrow, and the series Rivers of the United States.
In 1970, Patrick became the 12th woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and in 1974 she was elected to the American Philosophical Society. She received the John and Alice Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1975 and was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Bill Clinton in 1996. She received lifetime achievement awards from the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography and the National Council for Science. Other awards include the Pennsylvania Award for Excellence in Science and Technology, the Eminent Ecologist Award from the Ecological Society of America, the Gold Medal from the Royal Zoological Society of Belgium, and the Benjamin Franklin Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement.
Dr. Patrick continued her association with the Academy until her death at the age of 105 on September 23, 2013.
This note was based on the Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia’s online biography for Ruth Patrick. Some information has been condensed; minor additions have been made for the PACSCL finding aid. The original Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia biography may be accessed at: http://www.ansp.org/research/environmental-research/people/patrick/biography/
The Ruth Patrick papers contain records created predominantly during the course of Dr. Patrick’s employment at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, beginning in 1942 and ending in 2009. Some records created prior to 1942 and records from her teaching career, including work at the University of Pennsylvania, are also included. Overall, this collection spans the years 1908 to 2012. The records include correspondence, administrative records, scientific papers, lectures, speeches and publications, as well as field records, research records, and scientific data. This collection also contains the files of associates who worked closely with Dr. Patrick on a variety of research projects and, in many cases, also includes reference materials. These records relate to Dr. Patrick’s career as a botanist, limnologist, phycologist, and one of the world’s leading authorities on diatoms. They document her activities as a consultant and advisor to both industry and government, and her collegial activities with peers throughout the world. In large part, these records document her pioneering efforts to monitor water quality, including the design of a method for comprehensive environmental monitoring that would quantify the effects of pollution on fresh water and estuarine ecologies.
This collection is arranged into six series: “I. Correspondence, 1942-2010;” “II. Administrative files of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 1953-1988;” “III. Administrative files of other professional organizations, 1943-1991;” “IV. Writings and research, 1908-2011;” “V. Lectures and speeches, 1982-1987;” and “VI. Photographs and memorabilia, 1960-2012.”
Series “I. Correspondence” dates from 1942 to 2010, with bulk dates of 1952 to 1985, and was kept in its legacy arrangement. The initial section is in alphabetical order. At the start of each alphabetical designation, there is a group of files identified specifically by a correspondent’s name or organizational identity; this group is followed by the remaining files of that letter group arranged in chronological order. This alphabetical arrangement is followed by a section of correspondence arranged solely in chronological order; these records may have been a separate accession, as they mainly predate and postdate the files in the alphabetical arrangement. Legacy dates were kept as part of the folder titles only when it affected the arrangement of the folders. Users of this collection should note that legacy dating is not always reliable and that inclusive dates should be referred to for a more accurate date range. Correspondence files include letters, invitations, announcements and programs, and they may also contain reports and reprints, research data, photographs, newspaper clippings, and/or drawings as well. Correspondence with employees, colleagues, ex-students, corporations and governmental bodies, and thank you notes make up the bulk of these records. Letters usually discuss staffing matters, research, conferences, recommendations, and general inquiries.
Series “II. Administrative files of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia” dates from 1953 to 1988, with bulk dates of 1957 to 1987, and contains administrative records that document Dr. Patrick’s activities within the Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia. These records include memoranda and materials related to committee meetings, events, finances and employees. Relatively large groups of records document activities of the Board of Directors, the Environmental Assessment Council, Environmental Associates, and the Department of Limnology. The legacy arrangement separated these substantial records groups, as well as a large selection of memoranda and committee records, to the beginning of this series, followed by an alphabetical run of the remaining materials (separated by subject). Board of Directors records include materials related to meetings, committee records, as well as files related to long range planning at the Academy. The Environmental Assessment Council records include materials related to meetings and groundwater research. Environmental Associates records in this section include materials related to regular meetings, but most records document the Third National Water Conference held in 1987. Department of Limnology records in this series include records pertaining to the formation of the department and the development of the diatometer, a simple yet groundbreaking device that allowed the capture of information about diatom health in the field. “Memoranda” are arranged alphabetically by department name, individual’s name, or occasionally by subject; a small section of assorted memoranda follows the complete alphabetical run. While identified as memoranda, these folders may also contain letters, reprints, accounting documents, and project reports; some of these folders contain a significant amount of non-memoranda correspondence. Many of these memoranda files contain personnel records as well. Folders bearing employee names are found throughout and many include resumes, job offers and letters of resignation, notification of salary increases, selective service status forms, and other items that indicate a legacy filing system that located personnel-related documents, in addition to the memorandas in these files. The memoranda may be as simple as a time off request or as complex as acting as a cover letter accompanied by a set of documents.
Series “III. Administrative files of other professional organizations” dates from 1943 to 1991, with bulk dates of 1965 to 1985, and is a group of materials related to organizations outside of the Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia that Ruth Patrick was involved with. As in Series II, two organizations with large sets of records were placed first in the legacy arrangement, followed by an alphabetical run of the remaining institutions. The first two organizations arranged in this series are the Energy Research Advisory Board for the United States Department of Energy and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. Record types are alphabetically arranged within each organization, with sections of assorted materials always placed at the end of a run. Researchers seeking out collaborations between Ruth Patrick and other entities will also find documentation in Subseries IVb. Projects.” One example of this is the Manufacturing Chemists’ Association. The largest set of records in the main alphabetical run belongs to the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to teaching several courses in the University’s Biology Department, Patrick regularly taught a course called “Fundamentals of Systematics,” which was held at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. This course was offered in cooperation with the University of Pennsylvania, alongside Rutgers University, Swarthmore College, and Temple University. The material related to this particular course has been arranged alphabetically under University of Pennsylvania, as established by legacy arrangement.
Series “IV. Writings and research” dates from 1908 to 2011, with bulk dates of 1960 to 1987, and is composed of three subseries: “IVa. Publications and papers,1936-1990;” “IVb. Projects, 1938-2011;” and “IVc. References;1908-1990.”
Subseries “IVa. Publications and papers” dates from 1936 to 1990, with bulk dates of 1960 to 1987, and is organized alphabetically by a publication project’s legacy working title. Publication files often began before a formal title was assigned to a project and these files relate to early unpublished manuscripts and journal articles derived from the ongoing research, as well as published volumes; therefore, this legacy naming strategy was maintained. Much of the research related to Subseries IVa also will be found in Subseries “IVb. Projects.” The subdivision of publications and projects was also derived from the legacy arrangement and there is considerable overlap between these two subseries; researchers should consult both “publications” and “projects” to ensure that pertinent materials are discovered. The major book publications that relate to these files are: The Diatoms of the United States, volumes I and II (“Diatom book”), Groundwater Contamination in the United States, 1st and 2nd editions (“Groundwater book”), Nitrogen in the Aquatic Environment, and Rivers of the United States, which eventually resulted in six volumes (“Rivers book,” referred to in other areas of the collection as “River Basin book,” an earlier working title). The final section of Subseries a includes assorted articles and bibliographies.
Subseries “IVb. Projects” dates from 1908 to 2011, with bulk dates of 1964 to 1987, and contains materials related to a wide range of projects undertaken under Ruth Patrick’s supervision, or by Dr. Patrick herself. Each of these large project groups contains administrative records, data sets, notes, reports, manuscripts, and reference materials. A small amount of photographic material is present. The legacy arrangement was followed for the portion of the collection that had been previously processed. These materials are arranged alphabetically by the name of the collaborating or sponsoring institution, or a project’s legacy working name. Records within a project group are further alphabetically arranged, with assorted materials at the end of each grouping. One of the idiosyncrasies of the legacy arrangement is the occasional use of an individual’s first name in the alphabetical order. The initial alphabetical run ends with a section identified by a previous processor as references. Next, additional groups of project records were alphabetically arranged by legacy working name: “Delaware River Basin,” “Environmental Associates projects,” “Flint River,” “Groundwater,” “Maryland Acid Deposition,” “Neches River,” “Nitrogen,” “Pollution,” “Pollution Tolerance,” “River Basin Book,” “Rivers,” “Savannah River,” “Susquehanna River,” “United States Environmental Protection Agency,” and “Water Quality.” These names were preserved from legacy box and folder labeling and reflect the internal short-hand or working title rather than a formal project title. With the exception of “Rivers” and “Water Quality,” each project had an existing inventory. Researchers may want to consult these inventories for a fuller bibliographic record of the reference materials found here. These lists have been placed at the beginning of each related set of files. The arrangement established by these inventories was for the most part preserved and many are arranged in chronological order. The large project groups titled “Rivers” and “Water Quality” had not been previously arranged and, in their case, original order was preserved.
In Subseries “IVb. Projects,” the section identified as “Rivers” contains materials related to many years of research, some of which was incorporated into the publication Rivers of the United States. These files include notes, data, references, and draft manuscripts. This section includes groups of files that belonged to a number of research assistants, Elaine Schmerling and Barbara Bloomfield are identified by name. While “Rivers” is roughly divided into working files, data files, and references, like materials are not always grouped together and the arrangement was based on the found order of the files rather than rearrangement—no alphabetical or chronological order exists. Specific rivers are identified by name throughout the entire collection and a search should be performed on a specific river name to locate all related files. This is especially useful when looking for materials in this section. Materials related to the Delaware River are usually identified by the water monitoring stations, and ordered geographically, north to south. Legacy folders were kept and amended, since many folders are inscribed with notes which may prove interesting or useful in the future. Much of the data contained in this and other projects was stored in the form of computer printouts generated by a system called STORET. The United States Environmental Protection Agency continues to operate STORET and its online database of water monitoring data collected by water resource management entities across the country. Although much of the data found in this series is also stored in this online repository, the specific search parameters represented here may be unique, and many of the physical materials in the Ruth Patrick papers contain annotations related to its use in specific projects. This collection also contains documentation related to the implementation of the STORET program.
Subseries “IVc. References” dates from 1908 to 1990, with bulk dates of 1980 to 1990, and contains general references that had not been grouped with specific projects. A legacy inventory is present here as well, and contains a fuller list of the contents. For example, a set of scientific reprints from various countries, dating between 1908 and 1961, have been described as assorted mineralogy publications, but the full list of titles will be found in the “mineralogy inventory.”
Series “V. Speeches and lectures” dates from 1982 to 1987, with bulk dates of1983 to 1984, and contains typescripts of various public addresses given by Ruth Patrick. The legacy arrangement and description were preserved, and contents are ordered alphabetically by the title of the talk, or by its subject in cases where a title was not given.
Series “VI. Photographs and memorabilia” dates from 1960 to 2012, with bulk dates of 1962 to 1975, and is comprised of materials that include portraits of Ruth Patrick, audio and video recordings, and objects such as an instrument used for marking glass.
The Ruth Patrick papers offer many interesting avenues for research. Specific research topics, research methods, and data contained in these files will be useful to the scientific researcher and historian of science. Dr. Patrick’s primary focus on environmental advocacy, especially, is found throughout. Additionally, her advocacy for stronger roles for women in science and technology in the 1950s and 1960s presents a rich opportunity for further study. Articles from popular magazines and newspaper clippings from that same period are also found in these files and often provide a less flattering reflection of contemporary societal attitudes toward environmental pollution and women in professional roles.
This collection contains multiple accessions. Previously processed and unprocessed files were merged to make one collection; subsequent additions are expected in the near future. Legacy arrangement of the previously processed materials and the original order of the unprocessed materials were honored as much as possible; as a result, overall consistency in the arrangement of the different series, sometimes even within a series, was impossible; the scope note describes these issues in detail to aid in navigating the files. Throughout the entire collection, legacy folder titles and naming conventions for projects and publications have been maintained whenever possible and, in some cases, legacy folders were retained, as many folders contain notes and information useful to the future processor.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2013-2014, as part of an experimental pro-ject conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Col-lections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections," the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages in 16 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 4 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections or complete any preservation work.
Some materials have been physically separated due to size or format.
- Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Carey Hedlund and Alina Josan
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
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