Ralph E. Patterson, 60, an agricultural engineer with the Agricultural Department's Extension Service, died of cancer Thursday at Fairfax Hospital.

He had been with the extension service here since 1963. Before that, he had spent 17 years in teaching and research at Pennsylvania State University.

Born in Carroll County, Ohio, Mr. Patterson was a graduate of Ohio State University and earned a master's degree in agricultural engineering from Penn State.

He served as an aircraft engineering officer with the Army Air Corps in World War II, and with the Air Force during the Korean conflict, when he saw duty in Japan.

Mr. Patterson was an elder in the John Calvin Presbyterian Church in Annandale. He had been active in the Boy Scouts.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Maurer Patterson, of the home in Alexandria; a son, John M., of Alexandria; two daughters, Lizabeth Smith, of Gastonia, N.C., and Jean Harkins, of Spokane, Wash.; his mother, Mary E. Patterson, and a brother, Ray W., both of Carrollton, Ohio; another brother, Robert M., of Cheshire, Conn., and three grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the John Calvin Church or the American Cancer Society.