Historical records matching Rachel Carson
About Rachel 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.
Rachel Carson, author and ecologist, attended Pennsylvania College for Women, majoring in English with a career in writing in mind. Two years later a required course in biology changed her mind and she became a zoology major. Later in life, she combined the two fields, and became an influential force in the ecology movement. She taught zoology after receiving her Masters degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1932. Her writing career began with a series of articles on aquatic life for the Baltimore Sunday Sun. Subsequently, she secured a civil service appointment with the Fish and Wildlife Service as a "Junior aquatic biologist." In 1952, she retired as biologist and chief editor. Her associates remember her wit and humor as well as her literary talents.
Silent Spring, one of her most famous and controversial works, was published in 1962, and was called by Justice William O. Douglass, "the most important chronicle of this century for the human race." In Silent Spring, Carson warned against the indiscriminate use of chemicals upsetting the balance of nature. The book prompted a controversy among conservationists, the chemical industry, and the Department of Agriculture. Ms. Carson learned that she had cancer during the writing of Silent Spring. She died in 1964 at her home in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Many awards came to her the last year of her life, and she was able to receive them herself. Among them, her most treasured was the Cullum Medal of the American Geographical Society, which was awarded to only three other women at that time. Rachel Carson believed that "what is important is the relation of man to all life."
Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 1985.
© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2001 http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/carson.html
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) MSA SC 3520-13561
"...I think we're challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves. -Rachel Carson1
Rachel Carson, known today as the mother of the environmentalist movement, was a biologist and author who raised public awareness about the harmful effects of pesticides in the environment. Particularly, her book Silent Spring pointed out the specific dangers of the pesticide DDT in plants and animals, and launched a national debate over the safety of manufactured chemicals on the environment and the human population. And, while her book led to the banning of DDT in agriculture, Carson's true legacy was getting people to care about the world they lived in. Described as a naturalist, Carson's true objective in the books she wrote was to help people see the beauty in nature that she witnessed everyday. Through this appreciation, she inspired the nation to help protect the world in which humanity was a part of.
Rachel Carson was born on May 27, 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania, to Robert Warden Carson and Maria McLean.2 She was raised in Springdale and nearby Parnassus on a farm, where she spent hours exploring the outdoors with her mother and siblings.3,4 Carson had grown up loving books, and by the time she was ten she knew she wanted to become a writer.5 Her first publication was a short story in the children's magazine St. Nicholas Magazine in 1918.6
After graduating from Parnassus High School, Carson enrolled at Pennsylvania College for Women at Pittsburgh, initially majoring in English Composition.7 However, a required biology course in her junior year motivated her to change her major to zoology.8 After completing her bachelor's degree, Carson went on to Woods Hole Laboratory in Massachusetts to study marine biology while also attending graduate school at Johns Hopkins University.9 She graduated in 1932 from Johns Hopkins with her master's in zoology.10
During her time at Johns Hopkins, Carson taught summer school at her university, and in 1931 she became a member of the zoology staff at the University of Maryland.11 She taught at the college level for a few more years until her father passed away suddenly in 1935.12 Needing to find regular work to support her family, Carson passed the federal civil service test in 1936 and moved to Washington, D.C. to work for the Federal Bureau of Fisheries (now the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) as a writer.13 Carson researched and wrote pamphlets on conservation and natural resources as well as edited scientific articles.14 Carson also wrote radio scripts for the bureau's radio show, "Romance Under the Seas," but soon found the pay was too slim to support her and her family.15 So, she took a job at The Baltimore Sun as a supplementary writer.
Carson wrote mainly science related articles for The Sun. Her coverage included topics from the shad spawning season to the Baltimore Outdoors Convention.16 She also included more complex articles, from invasive species pushing out native species of the Chesapeake Bay region, to aquaculture farming.17 She used the byline R.L. Carson because she knew women were not taken seriously in the field of science except as secretaries.18 At nights and on the weekends, Carson combined her love of writing and science, particularly her passion for all subjects ocean-related, into composing a book, Under the Sea Wind, which she published in 1941.19 Her first attempt went relatively unnoticed, and it would take ten years for her second book to be published.20
Carson continued working at the Federal Bureau of Fisheries throughout the 1940s, but during the postwar years she began to warn U.S. officials about the long-term side effects of misusing synthetic chemical pesticides in agriculture.21 Her concern came from the use of DDT, one of the earliest pesticides used in agriculture. At this time, she also began work on her second book, The Sea Around Us, which she published in 1952.22 This book became a huge hit. It was on the bestseller list for one and a half years, translated into thirty languages, and won the 1952 National Book Award.23 It allowed Carson to retire from her job and spend full-time writing.24
After purchasing a summer cottage in Maine, Carson got to work on her next book. In 1955 she published The Edge of the Sea.25 To gain experience for the book, she sailed in a fishing trawler to George's Banks off the coast of Massachusetts.26 In 1957, tragedy struck the Carson family when Rachel's niece passed away, leaving her five-year-old boy parentless.27 Carson adopted her grand-nephew, Roger Christie, and had a house built in Silver Spring, Maryland for the two of them.28 Ever the nature-lover, Carson had builders place a mirror over the kitchen sink so she could watch the birds while doing the dishes.29
Over the next several years, Carson would focus her next book on the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment, a concern she had raised years before. Her efforts culminated in the publication of Silent Spring (1962), the book for which her name is so well-known.30 The book, which mixed science with the elegant prose Carson had become known for, set off a nationally publicized debate over the risks of pesticide use. Defending her stance on the issue, Carson appeared on the CBS Reports television program titled, "The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson.31 She first attempted to clear her name from pesticide companies who had attempted to vilify Carson by arguing that she supported a complete ban on pesticide use. Carson spoke: "We must have insect control. I do not favor turning nature over to insects. I favor the sparing, selective and intelligent use of chemicals. It is the indiscriminate, blanket spraying that I oppose."32 Public favor overwhelmingly fell to Carson. As the face of the new environmentalist movement, Carson testified on several occasions for the U.S. Senate in 1963.33
Carson's leadership in this new field would be short-lived. For several years, she had battled breast cancer, and in 1960 even underwent a radical mastectomy.34 She passed away in April of 1964 at her home in Silver Spring from the cancer; she was only 56 years old.35 As influential and prominent as Carson had become, people who knew her remembered her for her, "shyness and reserve as well as her scholarship and writing."36 In fact, the first time she was asked to speak in public, she was so frightened by the thought that she had to ask her publicist what she should do. Her publicist encouraged Carson not to speak, to focus on her writing, but Carson went ahead and did it anyway. She was scared to death, but made it through the talk.37
Carson's books (she wrote several more than the ones mentioned) won her multiple awards throughout her life, including:
-The Book Award of the Letters Committee of the National Council of Women of the United States -Silver Medal from the Limited Editions Club -The Gold Medal of the New York Zoological Society, -The John Burroughs Medal -Gold Medal of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia38,39,40
In addition to these awards, Carson was presented with the Achievement Award of the American Association of University Women (1956), was elected a member of the Distinguished Americans of the National Institutes of Arts and Letters (1953), and received a Guggenheim fellowship to study the ecology of the sea coast in 1951.41,42,43
Rachel Carson was a revolutionizing figure in the environmentalist movement. Her love of nature in all of its forms translated into the books she wrote with such eloquence and sincerity that readers had no choice but to listen and follow along. Her life, although unfairly cut short, was full of wonder for the world around her, and her legacy will be immortalized in the writings she composed for generations to come.
"Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties of the earth are never alone or weary in life...Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." -Rachel Carson (from Sense of Wonder)44
Written by Archival Intern Emily J. Steedman, B.A. History, A.A. Liberal Arts & Sciences
Birth: May 27, 1907 Springdale Allegheny County Pennsylvania, USA Death: Apr. 14, 1964 Silver Spring Montgomery County Maryland, USA
Biologist, Writer, Ecologist. The youngest of three children, Rachel grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, where she credits her mother for instilling and nurturing a passion for nature. She graduated with honors from the Pennsylvania College for Women in 1929, and received her Masters in Marine Biology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932. After earning her degrees, she taught zoology at the University of Maryland, and then accepted a position with the US Bureau of Fisheries. Her initial position was as a writer for the radio show "Romance Under the Waters." She became the first woman to pass the civil service test in 1936, and became a full time junior biologist for the Bureau, steadily earning promotions until she reached the position of chief editor of publications for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. During her years with the government, she began writing articles and books about marine life, and in 1952 resigned from her postion to devote herself to writing full time. Her works include "Under the Sea" (1941), "The Sea Around Us" (1952), "The Edge of the Sea" (1955), and her most notable work, "Silent Spring" (1962). "Silent Spring" was an indepth look at the environmental effects of longterm pesticide misuse. It was so controversial at the time of its publication, that the pesticide industry attempted to have it suppressed, challenging its findings and pulling advertising from television shows broadcasting its views. Due to the revelations in "Silent Spring," President Kennedy initiated a committee to investigate the pesticide industry, and in 1963, Carson testified before Congress. Her work has been credited as the impetus behind the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and she has been called the "mother of the modern environmental movement." (bio by: Anonymous)
Burial: Parklawn Memorial Park and Menorah Gardens Rockville Montgomery County Maryland, USA Plot: Block#4, Site#3, Lot#307 (top)
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Maintained by: Find A Grave Record added: Nov 27, 1998 Find A Grave Memorial# 4066 http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=4066
Springdale Allegheny County Pennsylvania, USA
Silver Spring Montgomery County Maryland, USA
Parklawn Memorial Park and Menorah Gardens Rockville Montgomery County Maryland, USA Plot: Block#4, Site#3, Lot#307 (top)