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In Memoriam

Grace E. Lippy

Grace E. Lippy


Grace Lippy and Rachel Carson met as fellow graduate students in zoology at Johns Hopkins University during the Great Depression. Lippy, who also worked under Professor R.P. Coles, was six years older than Carson when the two worked together. Carson was assigned as Lippy’s laboratory assistant in the summer school course in zoology in 1931. They taught together for the next four years at Hopkins, shared an interest in marine biology, and became friends.

Grace Lippy was born in Snydersburg, near Westminister, Pennsylvania and graduated from Wilson College in 1923. She entered Hopkins in 1924 and received her M.A. in Biology in 1926. A gifted teacher - especially skilled in dissection - she was the only woman appointed as instructor in zoology during these years. Lippy taught the summer school course at the University for eleven years.

Lippy was energetic, gregarious and fun loving. She and Carson came from similarly impecunious family circumstances. Both attended women’s colleges as undergraduates, both remained single, and both were intrigued by marine science. While they were colleagues at Hopkins, Lippy became a regular Sunday dinner guest at the Carson’s home in Stemmer’s Run, Maryland. They also roomed together at Woods Hole Biological Laboratory in 1932 when both were named "investigators" assigned to the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries Laboratory there.

Grace Lippy dropped out of the doctoral program in 1933 when she was offered a full-time position as Assistant Professor of Zoology at Hood College in Frederick Maryland. Over a long and successful teaching career there, Lippy offered courses in basic zoology, genetics, evolution and comparative vertebrate anatomy. She was a popular professor who encouraged women to study science at a time when many thought it too challenging. Lippy retired in 1967 as Associate Professor and was named emerita. A grateful student endowed a lecture fund in her honor.

Lippy recalled Rachel Carson as "very quiet, not much fun, and without much of a sense of humor" during an interview in 1994. But she admired Carson whom she described as an "avaricious reader" who was never rattled in the classroom and always extremely well-prepared.

Lippy and Carson apparently never met after their time at University but Lippy was not at all surprised by Carson’s later scientific and literary success. She regarded Carson as "one of the nation’s true heroines" and was enormously proud to have been her friend. Lippy died in 1997 at the age of 93.

An obituary of Grace E. Lippy appeared in the Frederick New-Post on April 15, 1997. Material on her career is available in the archives of Beneficial-Hodson Library at Hood College, Frederick, Maryland, the Ferdinand Hamburger Library at The Johns Hopkins University, and the Lear/Carson Collection at The Linda Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives, Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut.

Photograph, courtesy of the Beneficial-Hodson Library, Hood College.

Contributed by Linda Lear, 2013.

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