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Doris L. Low

1920 - 2008

Doris Low died of heart failure on 26 July 2008 on Martha’s Vineyard. Island, Massachusetts. She was the last surviving member of the Cushman Laboratory at Sharon, Massachusetts. She joined the Laboratory in the early 50’s after Cushman’s death (1949) to work with Cushman’s long time assistant Ruth Todd. Doris was a trained secretary who had completed a two-year course in a Boston secretarial school. This training was very useful because Ruth Todd was preparing the enormous Cushman Fora-minifera Collection for transfer to the U. S. National Museum in Washington, D. C. Both Doris Low and Ruth Todd moved with the collection to the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum.

Although the collection officially belonged to the National Museum, the two women were hired by the U.S. Geological Survey and were the de facto curators. The collection was originally housed in the main Natural History Museum, but in 1963 was moved along with Ruth and Doris to the new East Wing. Ruth and Doris shared an office with desks facing one another surrounded by what is now called the Todd Library. As publications (mostly reprints) arrived, each one was fitted with a cardboard jacket and sealed with tape on which was carefully printed with India ink the reference. These wonderfully preserved reprints are still the heart of what is the best foraminiferal library in the world. As the original collection grew, they also labeled numerous slides with great care. They stand in marked contrast to some of the slides labeled by other researchers.

With Ruth as her mentor, and night classes at American University, Doris became proficient as a researcher on foraminifera. She co-authored with Ruth a number of U.S.G.S. professional papers on core samples from Puerto Rico, St. Croix, Midway and the Bahamas. Their paper on the foraminifera from Martha’s Vineyard is a classic.

Both Ruth and Doris like Cushman were avid baseball fans. A radio in their office often played the old Washington Senators games, and they loved to attend games.

Doris was also a professional contralto who trained with Gertrude Ehrhart and sang at various synagogues and churches.

Upon Ruth Todd’s retirement, Doris Low moved with her to a cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. They both continued to work on Foraminifera, and Doris continued to work for the Survey by taking the ferry to Woods Hole until her own retirement. She also continued her singing at St. Andrews in Edgartown.

Brian Huber and I visited her on a trip to Martha’s Vineyard after Ruth’s death in 1984 to collect Ruth’s library and collection. Doris took great pleasure in showing us around the island and filling us in on the details of the collection we both now curate. She had the great fortune to spend the rest of her life on her beloved Martha’s Vineyard.

Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20013-7012

Reproduced From: Journal of Foraminiferal Research, v. 39, no. 2, p. 140, April 2009









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