Ada Hayden

Honored by:Dr. Howard W. Hintz and the Botany Department
Brick location:F:5 and PAVER:22  map

(1884-1950) Ada Hayden is perhaps best known today as the first woman to receive her Ph.D. from Iowa State College. That this degree was in Botany, a basic science, says something about her courage and perseverance in a time when women scientists had to conquer many more obstacles than today. However, two other distinctions recognize her service to Iowa State College and to the state - the Ada Hayden Herbarium and Hayden Prairie. A brief summary of her claim to such recognition (bestowed posthumously) is presented below.

She served Iowa State College as Assistant Professor in Botany Research, Assistant Professor of the Agricultural Experiment Station, and Curator of the Herbarium. Even before officially receiving this latter title, she was contributing immensely to the College Herbarium (a museum collection of preserved plant specimens) and during her career collected and preserved an estimated 40,000 specimens for deposit here and at other institutions. Although the Herbarium was founded by Charles Bessey in the early days of the College, under Dr. Hayden's direction it grew in size and prestige to become a major national resource in plant taxonomy. Her research and publications covered wide areas of plant taxonomy ecology and anatomy. Her contributions include both technical publications and semi- or non-technical descriptive writings to stir public support for conservation of lowa's remaining natural areas. She worked with Pammel toward the establishment of state parks, then almost single-handedly it seems pioneered the idea of setting aside prairie remnants and other rapidly-disappearing habitats as "preserves." Today's State Preserves Advisory Board, an agency closely associated with the Department of Natural Resources, is a legacy of her efforts and in fulfillment of her vision, the number of preserves held and managed by state county and private organizations (e.g. The Nature Conservancy) continues to grow. Near the end of her life, two prairie areas in Calhoun and Howard counties were purchased by the state and set aside as prairie preserves; shortly after her death the 200-acre Howard Co. preserve was named the "Ada Hayden Prairie" in recognition of her passionate efforts. In personality she has been described at least in her later years as "determined, independent, brusque and eccentric." Some called her "the worthy Ada." Yet she was also an artist and photographer, a poet in love with plants and prairies, and a visionary. She was an admiring and devoted friend and colleague of Louis H. Pammel. As with Charlotte King, it appears doubtful that Pammel's writings would have been as prolific or well-received without Ada Hayden's editorial and artistic contributions.

Ada Hayden was born near Ames in 1884 and grew up on the family farm, where she had a chance to explore and enjoy nature. She met L.H. Pammel while she was in high school and he evidently encouraged her to pursue her undergraduate work in botany at Iowa State College. Following graduation in 1908, she went to Washington University in St. Louis where she received a Master's degree in 1910. She returned to Iowa State to continue her studies under her former mentor and was awarded her Ph.D. in 1918. She accepted a position as instructor at Iowa State and was named an Assistant Professor in 1920, which rank she held until her death in 1950.


Paver Inscription:

Lois H. Tiffany
Ruth Swenson
Ada Hayden
Charlotte King"