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(1864-1922) THIS BOTANIST TRAVELED THE WORLD FINDING SPECIMENS FOR MUSEUMS. BUT HER MOST PRECIOUS COLLECTION WAS RIGHT HERE AT HOME - THE THOUSANDS OF NEW YORK CITY SCHOOL CHILDREN SHE INTRODUCED TO NATURE, BOTH DURING - AND AFTER - HER LIFETIME.
Some people never get a chance to see the true extent of their life's work. That was the case with Alice Northrop. Born just before the Civil War, by the 1890s she became a botanist, and married a professor. They spent 6 months in the Bahamas and discovered 18 new species before returning to New York City to teach. In 1892 Northrop's husband was killed in a lab explosion - just one week before their child was born. Young John Northrop grew up to be a Nobel Prize winning chemist. Alice continued to teach, but was bothered by the lack of what 'environmental science' in the city's classrooms. She worked to establish 'nature rooms' in every New York City school, each filled with terrariums, plants and stuffed animal specimens.
Rather than bringing nature to the city's children Alice set out to bring the city's children to more nature! In 1920, at the age of 60, she bought a 500 acre farm in the Berkshires Mountains of Massachusetts to host children during the summer. She never saw the camp open. Northrop was killed when her car stalled on a railroad track as she was driving to the farm. Friends established the Alice Rich Northrop Memorial Camp. The first group of children arrived in 1923. They grew their own vegetables, studied plants, learned about wildlife and astronomy, and read poetry. Now, long grown children remember their days at the Camp. They describe it as a place where they could go 'to be mended' from their abrasive city lives. Alice Northrop's legacy today is a corps of scientists, doctors, and teachers - all following the path of service laid out by a mentor they never met.
Credits: Alice Northrop image is courtesy of the Northrop Camp website.