American Marine Biologist and Writer, Famous for Silent Spring
Brief biography of Rachel Carson, American marine biologist and science writer, famous for Silent Spring, and works on ecology and marine biology.
Best known for Silent Spring and her other influential books on pollution and wild life, Rachel Carson made her career with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. er other works include The Sea Around Us, winner of a National Book Award, and the Edge of the Sea. She championed works on marine biology and ecology, and fight against toxic pesticides.
Early Life of Rachel Carson
Rachel Louise Carson was born on May 27, 1907, the youngest child in a family of two girls and a boy. She grew up in Springdale, Pennsylvania. Her father was a businessman. Characterizing herself as a rather solitary child, and early in life, she developed an interest in nature and spent great deal of time in the woods near streams, and learning about the birds, insects and flowers. Illness kept her out of school for periods of time, although she was an avid reader.
At 18 years old, she entered the Pennsylvania College for Women (Chatham College) in Pittsburgh majoring in English with intention of becoming a writer. Her career direction changed when in her second year she took a biology subject under a brilliant teacher, Mary Scott Skinker. She changed her major to science.
Career in Marine Biology and Science Writing
Graduating magna cum laude in 1929, Carson was accepted into a summer study fellowship at the US Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, which was her first experience with the ocean. With Skinker’s support, Carson won a scholarship to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. On the side, she also worked as laboratory assistant at Hopkins and as a teaching assistant in zoology at the University of Maryland. In 1932, she received her master’s degree in zoology.
In the mid-1930s, her family endured tragedies such as the death of her father and sister. She helped support the family by working with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries in Washington, D.C. as a writer of short radio programs on marine life. She was eventually offered a full-time job when she passed the Civil Service test with the highest score possible. Various work writing assignments ensued with publications of her books on marine and wildlife.
Advent of Carson’s Silent Spring
In 1958, when she received a letter from a friend that described the devastating effects of spraying pesticides on bird sanctuary, Carson felt it was time to speak out against the use of pesticides, then advocated by the Department of Agriculture. After careful and thorough research across the US and Europe, Carson published Silent Spring in 1962. In it, she demonstrated the effects of DDT pesticides, and other toxic chemicals that endanger creatures, humans included. Forcibly, she argued that the use of biological controls should be utilized with understanding and knowledge of the living organisms humans wanted controlled.
As Carson, predicted, Silent Spring was fiercely attacked by the agricultural chemical industry, which mounted a huge but unsuccessful campaign to discredit her book and her.
Fortunately, then President John F. Kennedy was impressed and ordered a re-evaluation of Federal Pesticide Policy. A year later after Silent Spring’s publication, the president’s Science Advisory Committee formed a subcommittee to study activities related to the use of pesticides. The presidential committee endorsed Carson’s position, and its findings led to legislation banning the use of DDT.
Legacy and Contributions of Rachel Carson
With gratitude to Carson and her Silent Spring, strong sense of environmental awareness, championed by her, has strongly continued. In recent years, it has become central to mainstream thinking through related issues of conservation and the earth’s protection. Among her other awards is a presidential Medal of Freedom Award, posthumously awarded in her honour.
Rachel Carson died April 14, 1964, aged 56, silenced by her own fight with bone cancer. To the world, she is primarily responsible for influencing the awareness of protecting the living species, and the factoring out of environmental costs to the natural world she so dearly loved.
Major Works by Rachel Carson:
- Under the Sea-Wind, 1941
- The Sea Around Us, 1951
- The Edge of the Sea, 1955
- Silent Spring, 1962