Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson

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One of the prime ecologists in the world, best known for her book Silent Spring, was Rachel Carson. Rachel Carson’s book caused controversy and a scare for the progression of the environmental movement.

“(Silent Spring) spells out in memorable detail through out the book the effects of synthetic insecticides and herbicides on water, soil, plants, wildlife, fish and human beings. But in the book’s final chapter she suggests alternative courses of action for mankind —- a way out of this march toward death.” (Holmes, Pg. 123)

Rachel Carson had several accomplishments throughout her life many of which started at a young age. Carson was born in May of 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania. She was the third child born to Roger Carson and Mana Mclean. Her parents raised her with a strict Presbyterian background and a middleclass status. Her parents owned a farm and orchard which helped influence Carson’s love of the environment. Carson’s mom encouraged this love of the environment by teaching and learning with her. They continued to be best friends throughout her life.

Carson had her first story published in St. Nicholas magazine at the age of ten. The story was about war and was inspired by letters that had been sent home by her brother who was a soldier in World War I. In 1922 Carson wrote her first article about nature. It was called My Favorite Recreation, Going Bird’s Nesting.

Carson Graduated from Parnassus High School in 1925. She participated in sports but was quiet and her main focus was her studies. She graduated top of her class where she then decided to go to college at the Pennsylvania College for Women in Pittsburg. This was a liberal arts college stationed sixteen miles from her home. Rachel Carson’s first interest was in English composition but she later changed her major to biology. She graduated in 1929 and went on to work at a marine biology lab. At the same time she continued her education at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. She graduated with a master’s degree in Zoology in 1932. Carson was then employed at the University of Maryland as an instructor. She did not acquire her PHD because she ran out of funds for research due to The Great Depression. (Quaratiello, 2004)

One of Carson’s great inspirations during college was her biology professor Mary Skinker who Carson later turned to for help. Skinker recommended Carson for a job in the Zoological division of the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington D.

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C. Skinker advised Carson to take civil service exams in different fields of Zoology and later arranged an interview with the division chief at the United States Bureau of Fisheries. Carson was offered a job as a field aid. She wrote weekly scripts on marine life and was a full time junior aquatic biologist in Baltimore.

Carson worked for the Unites States Government for sixteen years. Her most substantial writing for the U.S. Government was booklets about national wildlife refuges. There were twelve booklets total, five of which were illustrated. Carson made good use of the government’s resources trying to make a difference. During this time she also wrote freelance for a newspaper, magazine and she wrote two full length books. Carson resigned in 1955 when she published her third book Edge of the Sea. She quickly moved from being a famous writer to a world famous writer when her book Silent Spring came out in 1962.

“Other people had warned about man’s increasing contamination of the natural environment, but no one before 1962 had written such a powerful succinct and scientifically argued call for public action. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring ushered in the environmental movement.”(Holmes, Pg. 132)

Between the years of 1941 and 1965 Carson wrote five different books. Only four books were published during her life. The fifth which was called The Sense of Wonder was published after her death in 1965. The sea trilogy starting with Under the Sea Wind, the second The Sea Around Us, and the third The Edge of the Sea were written between the years 1941 and 1955. Silent Spring written in 1962 was Carson’s best known and most controversial book.

Rachel Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer and had arthritis. She passed away April 14, 1964 at the age of fifty-six in Silverland, Maryland after fighting a long battle with cancer. Dedicated to her work and goals to safeguard nature, Rachel Carson never married but her books left behind a legacy. Rachel Carson held strong opinions about the environment and dedicated her life to her work she said, “It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.”

A bridge crossing the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania was dedicated to Rachel Carson on Earth Day April 22, 2006 in memory of “one of southwestern Pennsylvania’s most famous natives and one of the world’s foremost ecologists.”(Golden, 2006). The bridge is eighteen miles up river from Rachel Carson’s farmhouse. The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge was established in the state of Maine in 1966. The refuge has ten divisions and is devoted to saving salty marsh lands and migratory birds. Rachel Carson once said, “Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”

Sources Cited:


Golden, P (2006).Bridge To Be Re-Named in Honor of Rachel Carson; Bridge Leads to World's Largest "Green" Building. PR Newswire US.

Holmes, M (2004). American Women Conservationists. Jefferson, NC: McFarland And Company, INC..

Quaratiello, A (2004).Rachel Carson: A Biography. New Biological Books. 80, 233-234.

Bray, T (2006).The Buzz on DDT. The New York Sun. Pg 7.

Healy, K (2005).Environmental Writer Found Inspiration Here. Pittsburg Post Gazette. B-6.

Fisher, Fiona (2005).No Free Ride For Pesticides. LexisNexis Academic. Editorial, J-1.
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