Rachel Carson was an American biologist and popular author. She is most famous for her books Under the Sea Wind, The Sea Around Us, The Edge of the Sea, and, especially, Silent Spring. The latter was instrumental in spreading awareness of the
likely long-term effects of pesticides.Carson was born in rural Pennsylvania in 1907. Early on, she developed an immense love and concern for nature. Because of evident skills as a writer, however, she chose to major in English
while attending Pennsylvania College for Women. But then, through a required class in biology, her interest in science and the environment developed once again, and she received a degree in zoology in 1928.
Carson continued her scientific studies at Johns Hopkins University, from which she earned a master's degree. She also spent time studying at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, where she developed an interest in the ocean, while also
working as a scriptwriter for the Bureau of Fisheries. Soon, though, she was hired by the Bureau to work as a junior aquatic biologist. Carson worked here, in what became the United States Fish and Wildlife Services, until resigning in 1952 in order to devote herself to full-time writing.
Carson's first book was published in 1941. Entitled Under the Sea Wind, the book contains narratives describing the life forms of all levels of the sea: the
shore, the open sea, and the ocean floor. Other work for the Bureau of Fisheries occupied Carson until her second book was published in 1951. This book dealt more with the history and development of the ocean, as well as with islands and tides. Here Carson began to emphasize the interconnectedness of all living things. This was the work that brought Carson into the public eye. Soon afterwards, she resigned from her job, and in 1955 published her third
book, The Edge of the Sea, which focuses on the beach and served as a guide to the shores of the American Atlantic coast.
Carson is most widely known for authoring the controversial book Silent Spring. This book strongly attacks the use of pesticides and chemicals as ultimately harmful to the environment and to the human race. The book is titled as it is because it depicts a world in which the calls of birds and sounds of life
have been silenced by chemical killers. Carson makes the point that the citizens of this world had done the damage themselves. Although seemingly negative and aggressive towards chemical companies, however, the book actually ends on a hopeful note, citing alternative control mechanisms and advocating their use.
The reaction to the book was momentous. Outraged chemical companies, seeing advanced chapters in The New Yorker, tried desperately to prevent the
book's publication, alleging inaccuracies in the text. Their charges were proven wrong, however, and the book was widely read. Nonetheless, many considered Carson "more poisonous than the pesticides she condemns," and they criticized her for personal as well as professional reasons, ignoring the fact that she was a careful, trained scientist. However, despite the outcry, subsequent research strongly reinforced Carson's claims; before long, laws to
control pesticide use were enacted. Rachel Carson died of cancer in 1964.
Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge