Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: October 12, 1912 – Mary Eugenia Wharton


Image from people.eku.edu


From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Author, botanist, geologist, educator, and activist Mary Eugenia Wharton was born October 12, 1912, in Jessamine County to Joseph Felix and Mayme (Davis) Wharton. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky (1935) and a master's degree (1936) and doctorate (1946) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She taught botany at Morehead State University and the University of Tennessee, and geology at Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts. In 1942, Wharton discovered an unnamed species of dewberry in Montgomery County, Kentucky, and it was named in her honor, RUBUS WHARTONIAE.

 From 1947 to 1974, Wharton chaired the biology department at Georgetown College . In 1976, Georgetown awarded her an honorary doctor of laws degree, and in 1986, dedicated the botanical wing of their science center as the Mary Wharton Botanical Wing. In 1971, she co-authored, with Roger W. Barbour, A Guide to the Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky. The two collaborated again in 1973 on Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky and in 1991 on Bluegrass Land and Life: Land Character, Plants, and Animals of the Inner Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, Past, Present and Future. She was a co-editor of Peach Leather and Rebel Gray: Bluegrass Life and the War, 1860-1865 (1986) and associate editor and principal author of The Horse World of the Bluegrass (1980). Wharton was named Distinguished Scientist of Kentucky by the Kentucky Academy of Science and was designated Outstanding Naturalist of Kentucky by the Kentucky Society of Natural History.

As an environmental activist, Wharton was one of the principal opponents of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' plan in the 1960s to build a 5,000-acre impoundment on the North Fork of the Red River. The 25,630-acre Red River Gorge was given federal protective status as a national geological area in 1976. Wharton also assisted in defeating one of the early plans to widen Paris Pike, between Lexington and Paris. She was one of the founders of the Land and Nature Trust of the Bluegrass, and served the organization as president and chairman of the board. In 1987, she was named by the trust as the " Outstanding Citizen of The Bluegrass," the first person so honored.

In 1958, Mary Wharton began acquiring land for a nature sanctuary, which, in the end, amounted to nine parcels of land, totaling 278 acres on the Kentucky River, near Elk Lick Creek in southern Fayette County . Her purpose was "to protect unique and endangered elements of the Bluegrass region," she said. Generations of her students have since used this area for research and study. She donated a portion of the land to the Urban County Government as a conservation easement, but the entire area, called since her death the Mary E. Wharton Nature Sanctuary at Floracliff, was left in trust (with means for its maintenance) for use by the students of Kentucky's colleges.

Wharton's last book, Bluegrass Land & Life, was an effort to bequeath to Kentuckians an understanding of the unique qualities of the Bluegrass region that would move them to preserve it for the future.

Wharton lived most of her life in Lexington's Fayette Park in the house her grandmother purchased in 1905. She died there, after an eighteen-year battle with heart disease, November 28, 1991, and was buried in the Lexington Cemetery .


Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. A Guide to the Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky. Reprinted with Corrections.. ed. Lexington]: U of Kentucky, 1979. Print. Kentucky Nature Studies ; 1.
QK 162 W554g 1971, Young Library -- 5th Floor

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees & Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: U of Kentucky, 1973. Print. Kentucky Nature Studies ; 4.
QK484 .K4 W46, Young Library -- 5th Floor

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Bluegrass Land & Life : Land Character, Plants, and Animals of the Inner Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, Past, Present, and Future. Lexington: U of Kentucky, 1991. Print.
QH105.K4 W43 1991, Young Library -- 5th Floor

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