Rachel Louise Carson (1907 - 1964) MP

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Death: Died
Managed by: Doug Robinson
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About Rachel Louise Carson


Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

Carson began her career as a biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her financial security and recognition as a gifted writer. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the republished version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers. Together, her sea trilogy explores the whole of ocean life, from the shores to the surface to the deep sea.

In the late 1950s, Carson turned her attention to conservation and the environmental problems caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented portion of the American public. Silent Spring, while met with fierce denial from chemical companies, spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy—leading to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides—and the grassroots environmental movement which the book inspired led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.



A shy young woman who loved books and nature equally well, Rachel Carson trained as a zoologist. She joined the Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington to work on their publications. In 1951 she came to national prominence when her book, The Sea Around Us, topped the best seller list for 86 weeks. Her graceful prose opened up scientific knowledge about the oceans to the layperson. An earlier work, Under the Sea Wind, was reissued. When she studied marine life in Maine for her next book, The Edge of the Sea, she stayed for hours wading in icy tidal pools until she was so numb with cold she had to be carried out.

She was not by nature a crusader, but when aerial spraying of DDT killed the birds in a friend's bird sanctuary, she began to investigate the effects of pesticides on the chain of life. "The environment" and "ecology" have since become household words for Americans, but it all began with her Silent Spring in 1962. Driven by the knowledge that the book was desperately needed, she pored over and combined the work of many individual researchers. She wrote of the heedless pesticide poisoning of our rivers and soils, warning that we might soon face a spring when no bird songs could be heard. Rachel Carson had to weather a storm of controversy and abuse, and she did not live to see the eventual banning of DDT. But the environmentalist movement carries on the work she began, preserving our natural heritage for the future.

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Rachel Carson's Timeline

Age 57