Understanding Kaye Barr’s contributions to the Delaware County Institute of Science (DCIS), along with women highlighted by Dr. Hornberger in her talk The Legacy of Phebe and Matilda: Contributions by Women at the Delaware County Institute of Science, Media, PA, enhanced my historical perspective. My research concluded that women have always been involved in STEM research at the DCIS, as well as throughout human exploration and description of the natural environment. However, women’s involvement may have been deemphasized over the years by a male dominated process of science communication. Therefore, it has been refreshing this last year to see our nation highlighting women’s contributions to STEM in many popular articles.
Kaye Ann Barr
Kaye Barr was a scientist in terms of being a natural historian. In a modern context, a natural historian focuses on a subject in nature by using observational techniques and applying logical framework to better understand the abiotic and biotic processes within ecosystems. Her pursuit of scientifically understanding nature began early in her life while attending the Ogontz School for Young Ladies, Abington, PA. Her academic performance earned her a Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award in 1946. Her continued academic excellence was further demonstrated in her senior essay ‘Honors Problems in Mathematics’ while attending Wells College, Aurora, NY. After college, while focusing on raising a family, Kaye's interest turned to the study of mollusk shells, or conchology. Her attention to conchology was inspired during a trip to Sanibel Island, FL in 1955. She also had a residence in Stone Harbor/Cape May, NJ and became affiliated with the Jersey Cape Shell Club. Furthermore, she was an avid supporter of natural history museums, including the Delaware County Institute of Science in Media, PA (DCIS; est. 1833). Her support took the form of charitable contributions, specimen curation, and fellowship. In addition, she was a curator of the DCIS shell collection and spent many hours identifying and classifying shells left by members as far back as Graceanna Lewis, a noted 19th century natural historian. This work earned her the distinction of being designated the first female Fellow of the Institute in 1994. Kaye also continued her dedicated volunteer service as a Vice-President of the Institute in the early 1990’s. While she never wrote any scientifically-published papers, she was quoted in popular news articles, wrote pieces for the Institute’s annual newsletter, maintained reference collections, and developed finding aids and specimen guides (e.g.,Freshwater Mollusks Family: Unionidae). She donated her extensive collection of over 5,000 shells as a reference and display collection to the institute. This collection is viewed today by the public and school children, as well as being inspirational to several lectures at the Institute. Kaye and her husband retired to Dunwoody Village, Newtown Square, PA. She passed away in 1999 after several years of battling cancer.
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