Carson, Rachel (1907-1964)
Carson, Rachel (1907-1964)
American marine biologist
Rachel Carson is best known for her 1962 book, Silent Spring, which is often credited with beginning the modern environmental movement in the United States. The book focused on the uncontrolled and often indiscriminate use of pesticides, especially dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (commonly known as DDT), and the irreparable environmental damage caused by these chemicals. The public outcry Carson generated by the book motivated the United States Senate to form a committee to investigate pesticide use. Her eloquent testimony before the committee altered the views of many government officials and helped lead to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Rachel Louise Carson, the youngest of three children, was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania, a small town twenty miles north of Pittsburgh. Her parents, Robert Warden and Maria McLean Carson, lived on 65 acres and kept cows, chickens, and horses. Although the land was not a true working farm, it had plenty of woods, animals, and streams, and here, near the shores of the Allegheny River, Carson learned about the relationship between the land and animals.
Carson's mother instilled in Rachel a love of nature, and taught her the intricacies of music, art, and literature. Carson's early life was one of isolation; she had few friends besides her cats, and she spent most of her time reading and pursuing the study of nature. She began writing poetry at age eight and published her first story, "A Battle in the Clouds," in St. Nicholas magazine at the age of 10. She later claimed that her professional writing career began at age 11, when St. Nicholas paid her a little over three dollars for one of her essays.
Carson planned to pursue a career as a writer when she received a scholarship in 1925 from the Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College) in Pittsburgh. At the college she fell under the influence of Mary Scott Skinker, whose freshman biology course altered her career plans. In the middle of her junior year, Carson switched her major from English to zoology, and in 1928, she graduated magnum cum laude. "Biology has given me something to write about," she wrote to a friend, as quoted in Carnegie magazine. "I will try in my writing to make animals in the woods or waters, where they live, as alive to others as they are to me."
With Skinker's help, Carson obtained first a summer fellowship at the Marine Biology Laboratory at Woods Hole in Massachusetts and then a one-year scholarship from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. While at Woods Hole over the summer, she saw the ocean for the first time and encountered her first exotic sea creatures, including sea anemones and sea urchins. At Johns Hopkins, she studied zoology and genetics. Graduate school did not proceed smoothly; she encountered financial problems and experimental difficulties but eventually managed to finish her highly detailed master's dissertation, "The Development of the Pronephoros during the Embryonic and Early Larval Life of the Catfish (Inctalurus punctaltus )." In June 1932, she received her master's degree.
Before beginning her graduate studies at Johns Hopkins, Carson had arranged an interview with Elmer Higgins, who was head of the Division of Scientific Inquiry at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. Carson wanted to discuss her job prospects in marine biology, and Higgins had been encouraging, though he then had little to offer. Carson contacted Higgins again at this time, and she discovered that he had an opening at the Bureau of Fisheries for a part-time science writer to work on radio scripts. The only obstacle was the civil service exam, which women were then discouraged from taking. Carson not only did well on the test, she outscored all other applicants. She went on to become only the second woman ever hired by the bureau for a permanent professional post.
At the Bureau of Fisheries, Carson wrote and edited a variety of government publications—everything from pamphlets on how to cook fish to professional scientific journals. She earned a reputation as a ruthless editor who would not tolerate inconsistencies, weak prose, or ambiguity. One of her early radio scripts was rejected by Higgins because he found it too "literary." He suggested that she submit the script in essay form to the Atlantic Monthly, then one of the nation's premier literary magazines. To Carson's amazement, the article was accepted and published as "Undersea" in 1937. Her jubilation over the article was tempered by personal family tragedy. Her older sister, Marian, died at age forty that same year, and Carson had to assume responsibility for Marian's children, Marjorie and Virginia Williams.
The Atlantic Monthly article attracted the notice of an editor at the publishing house of Simon & Schuster, who urged Carson to expand the four-page essay into book form. Working diligently in the evenings, she was able to complete the book in a few years; it was published as Under the Sea-Wind. Unfortunately, the book appeared in print in 1941, just one month before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Despite favorable, even laudatory reviews, it sold fewer than 1,600 copies after six years in print. It did, however, bring Carson to the attention of a number of key people, including the influential science writer William Beebe. Beebe published an excerpt from Under the Sea-Wind in his 1944 compilation The Book of Naturalists, including Carson's work alongside the writings of Aristotle, Audubon, and Thoreau.
The poor sales of Under the Sea-Wind compelled Carson to concentrate on her government job. The Bureau of Fisheries merged with the Biological Survey in 1940, and was reborn as the Fish and Wildlife Service. Carson quickly moved up the professional ranks, eventually reaching the position of biologist and chief editor after World War II. One of her postwar assignments, a booklet about National Wildlife Refuges called Conservation in Action, took her back into the field. As part of her research, she visited the Florida Everglades, Parker River in Massachusetts, and Chincoteague Island in the Chesapeake Bay.
After the war, Carson began work on a new book that focused on oceanography . She was now at liberty to use previously classified government research data on oceanography, which included a number of technical and scientific breakthroughs. As part of her research, she did some undersea diving off the Florida coast during the summer of 1949. She battled skeptical administrators to arrange a deep-sea cruise to Georges Bank near Nova Scotia aboard the Fish and Wildlife Service's research vessel, the Albatross III.
Entitled The Sea around Us, her book on oceanography was published on July 2, 1951. It was an unexpected success, and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 86 weeks. The book brought Carson numerous awards, including the National Book Award and the John Burroughs Medal, as well as honorary doctorates from her alma mater and Oberlin College. Despite her inherent shyness, Carson became a regular on the lecture circuit. With financial security no longer the overriding concern it had been, she retired from government service and devoted her time to writing.
Carson began work on another book, focusing this time on the intricacies of life along the shoreline. She took excursions to the mangrove coasts of Florida and returned to one of her favorite locations, the rocky shores of Maine. She fell in love with the Maine coast and in 1953 bought a summer home in West Southport on the shore of Sheepscot Bay. The Edge of the Sea was published in 1955 and earned Carson two more prestigious awards, the Achievement Award of the American Association of University Women and a citation from the National Council of Women of the United States. The book remained on the bestseller list for 20 weeks, and RKO Studios bought the rights to it. In Hollywood, the studio sensationalized the material and ignored scientific fact. Carson corrected some of the more egregious errors but still found the film embarrassing, even after it won an Oscar as the best full-length documentary of 1953.
From 1955 to 1957, Carson concentrated on smaller projects, including a telescript, "Something about the Sky," for the Omnibus series. She also contributed a number of articles to popular magazines. In July 1956, Carson published "Help Your Child to Wonder" in the Woman's Home Companion. The article was based on her own real-life experiences, something rare for Carson. She intended to expand the article into a book and retell the story of her early life on her parent's Pennsylvania farm. After her death, the essay reappeared in 1965 as the book The Sense of Wonder.
In 1956, one of the nieces Carson had raised died at age 36. Marjorie left her son Roger; Carson now cared for him in addition to her mother. She legally adopted Roger that same year and began looking for a suitable place to rear the child. She built a new winter home in Silver Spring, Maryland, on an uncultivated tract of land, and she began another project shortly after the home was finished. The luxuriant setting inspired her to turn her thoughts to nature once again. Carson's next book grew out of a long-held concern about the overuse of pesticides. She had received a letter from Olga Owens Huckins, who related how the aerial spraying of DDT had destroyed her Massachusetts bird sanctuary. Huckins asked her to petition federal authorities to investigate the widespread use of such pesticides, but Carson thought the most effective tactic would be to write an article for a popular magazine. When her initial queries were rejected, Carson attempted to interest the well-known essayist E. B. White in the subject. White suggested she write the article herself, in her own style, and he told her to contact William Shawn, an editor at the New Yorker. Eventually, after numerous discussions with Shawn and others, she decided to write a book instead.
The international reputation Carson now enjoyed enabled her to enlist the aid of an array of experts. She consulted with biologists, chemists, entomologists, and pathologists, spending four years gathering data for her book. When Silent Spring first appeared in serial form in the New Yorker in June 1962, it drew an aggressive response from the chemical industry. Carson argued that the environmental consequences of pesticide use underscored the futility of humanity's attempts to control nature, and she maintained that these efforts to assume control had upset nature's delicate balance. Although the message is now largely accepted, the book caused controversy in some circles, challenging the long-held belief that humans could master nature. The chemical companies, in particular, attacked both the book and its author; they questioned the data, the interpretation of the data, and the author's scientific credentials. One early reviewer referred to Carson as a "hysterical woman," and others continued this sexist line of attack. Some chemical companies attempted to pressure Houghton Mifflin, the book's publisher, into suppressing the book, but these attempts failed.
The general reviews were much kinder and Silent Spring soon attracted a large, concerned audience, both in America and abroad. A special CBS television broadcast, "The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson," which aired on April 3, 1963, pitted Carson against a chemical company spokesman. Her cool-headed, commonsense approach won her many followers and brought national attention to the problem of pesticide use. The book became a cultural icon and part of everyday household conversation. Carson received hundreds of invitations to speak, most of which she declined due to her deteriorating health. She did find the strength to appear before the Women's National Press Club, the National Parks Association, and the Ribicoff Committee—the U.S. Senate committee on environmental hazards.
In 1963, Carson received numerous honors and awards, including an award from the Izaak Walton League of America, the Audubon Medal, and the Cullen Medal of the American Geographical Society. That same year, she was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Carson died of heart failure at the age of 56. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter posthumously awarded her the President's Medal of Freedom. A Rachel Carson stamp was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 1981.
See also Environmental pollution
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Carson, Rachel Louise
CARSON, RACHEL LOUISE
(b Springdale, Pennsylvania, 27 May 1907; d. Silver Spring, Maryland, 14 April 1964)
ecology, natural history, marine biology.
Carson, the third and youngest child of Maria Frazier McLean Carson and Robert Warden Carson, grew up in semirural Pennsylvania. Her father was a moderately successful insurance agent who augmented his income by the piecemeal selling of the family farm. Despite financial difficulties she was able to attend Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College) in Pittsburgh, graduating magna cum laude in English and biology in 1929, Zoology professor Mary Scott Skinker encouraged Carson to face the daunting prospects for a woman in professional zoology, and she entered graduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University after summer research at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts. Her thesis research, under R. P. Cowles, was detailed microscopy of the embryological development of the kidney system in a catfish species, Morphology was standard training in 1930 even for the field of fisheries biology, which she wished to enter.
Financially constrained, Carson worked for a year as laboratory assistant to the geneticist Raymond Pearl, took a position in 1931 as assistant in zoology at the University of Maryland, and continued there after taking an M.A. in marine zoology in 1932 at Hopkins. With employment opportunities restricted and the need to care for her widowed mother, she began part-time writing for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries public information projects in 1935 Thus, out of necessity Carson began her career as a science writer. When a civil service opening arose in 1936. she entered the bureau as a junior aquatic biologist under Elmer Higgins of the Division of Scientific Inquiry, who had requested her appointment to his office.
Carson wrote informative radio broadcasts, pamphlets, and reports on fisheries research and oceanography. To supplement her income she produced articles on the sea and marine ecology, including “Undersea”in Atlantic Monthly (1937), which led the popular science writer Hendrik Willem van Loon and Quincy Howe, editor in chief at Simon & Schuster, to encourage her to write Under the SeaWind, a natural history of sea life with a sharp ecological focus but also a touch o( drama. It appeared to good reviews in ISM I, but sales were low.
In 1940 Fisheries merged with the Bureauo( Biological Survey to create the Fish and Wildlife Service; Carson moved into its information section. Respected for her analytical abilities and her literary skills, she advanced to editor in chief by 1949, Significant projects that she oversaw were the promotion of applied oceanography, conservation efforts, and the new wildlife refuge network. Although she sailed on research vessels, Carson s scientific work for the Fish and Wildlife Service was as a synthesizer of information, not a field research zoologist.
She pursued her writing career with the help of the Eugene F. Saxton Memorial Fellowship, which allowed her to take a leave of absence and write The Sea Around Us. Using recent research, she traced the origins and history of the oceans and explained the ecological relation so( the physical environment to marine and human life. Chapters were serialized in the New Yorker and other magazines to much acclaim, and when the book appeared in 1951 it was an immediate best-seller. It was on the New York Times best-seller list for eighty-six weeks, joined by a reissue of Sea-Wind. and (arson became a literary celebrity. Among the awards, medals, and honorary doctorates following tins book was a Guggenheim fellowship for another book, which allowed her to take a leave of absence in 1951 and finally resign a year later. Her subsequent financial success gave her the opportunity to travel and to do research on her next book, a guide and natural history of seashore life in the intertidal zone. The Edge of the Sea appeared in 195s and also became a best-seller.
Shy and reserved, Carson did not relish the attention bestowed on her as a popular author, although she answered the many letters she received. Rumored to be a recluse, she lived a quiet life of scholarship with her mother and her grandnephew Roger Christie, whom she had adopted when he was orphaned in 1957. She stayed in touch with a close circle of friends, was active in the Audubon Society, and corresponded with a number of professional scientists and writers.
In January 1958 one of these correspondents, Olga Owens Huckins, brought to Carson’s attention environmental problems caused by indiscriminate pesticide use. Plagued by poor health, and slowed by the death of her mother in 1958 and the removal of a cancerous tumor in 1960, Carson nonetheless uncovered in four years of research a remarkable amount of evidence, never before brought together, that profligate spraying had led to unexpected damage throughout the natural environment, Applying the same principles that had informed her previous work, she explained in Silent Spring how the ecologically interconnected “web of life” was affected by chemical disruption, including groundwater contamination, the concentration of residues in animals high in the food chain, and the death of birds. Pest control problems had increased even through the loss of natural enemies and the evolution of resistance.
The public controversy started in 1962. even before publication of the best-selling Silent Spring that same year, when the New Yorker serialized chapters, Not opposed to all pesticide use, Carson objected to the application of a technology without sensitivity to the natural balance maintained by the complex interactions of organism and environment, or to the loss of wild habitat and species in the drive to eradicate pests, Nonetheless, she was attacked strongly by spokespersons for the agricultural chemical industry and portrayed as a fanatic opposed to all pest control. In the unfavorable reviews, innuendo and claims of error outweighed actual refutations of her carefully documented argument. Her popularity and the lyrical quality of her writing were used to cast her as a nonprofessional, sentimental nature lover, a crank in a balance-of-nature cult. The debate that raged around her, as favorable reviews pointed out, was fundamentally between ecological theorists and economic entomologists more tied to simplistic agricultural practice than to the science of complex environmental relationships, Carson’s ecological theory was not radical. She tied Charles Elton’s standard views on food chains and interconnectivity to the holistic views on energy and materials flow of such ecologists as Aldo Leopold. If she stressed the harmony of nature, she also had a Darwinian view of the ceaseless struggle forcing adaptation both to the environment and among organisms, She was, more pointedly, successful in transmitting the paradigmatic ecological theory of the 1950’s to a wide audience.
The debate reached national proportions, and Carson became a figure of headlines, editorials, and popular culture. In 1963 the Presidents Science Advisory Committee report on pesticides vindicated her argument, and federal environmental protection laws were one eventual outcome. In all her books, but especially in Silent Spring, (arson brought the relatively new science of ecology to the public’s attention, and helped change the relations of applied science to government through public environmental policy, Carson died of cancel two years after the publication of Silent Spring.
I. Original Works. Carson’s major works are Under the Sea-Wind (New York, 1941); The Sea Around Us (New York, 1951); The Edge of the Sea (Boston, 1955); and Silent Spring (Boston. 1962)
Her library and some of her correspondence are held at the Rachel Carson Council. C hew Chase. Maryland. Correspondence and literary papers are in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library, Yale University.
II. Secondary Literature. Numerous obituaries and biographical sketches have been published, including several biographies. The most definitive of these is Paul Brooks, The House of Life: Rachel Carson at Work (Boston, 1972). The pesticide controversy and some of its political repercussions are discussed in Frank Graham. Jr., Since Silent Spring (Boston, 1970).
William C. Kimler
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American Author, Biologist, and Environmentalist
Rachel Carson made a career of her lifelong fascination with wildlife and the environment around her and became one of the pioneers of the environmental movement in the United States. Her mother taught her to enjoy the outdoors. On graduation from Parnassas High School in Pennsylvania, Carson enrolled in the Pennsylvania College for Women in Pittsburgh, planning to study English and become a writer. A course in biology rekindled her interest in science and led her to change to a science major.
Carson went on to do postgraduate work at Johns Hopkins University, obtaining a master's degree in 1932. She joined the zoology staff at the University of Maryland in 1931. Carson developed a particular interest in the life of the sea, which led her into further postgraduate research at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts. In 1936, she accepted a position as an aquatic biologist at the Bureau of Fisheries in Washington, D.C. She went on to be editor in chief at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the successor to the Bureau of Fisheries. Here she prepared leaflets and informational brochures on conservation and the protection of natural resources.
Rachel Carson's first book, Under the Sea Wind, appeared in 1941 with the subtitle "a naturalist's picture of ocean life." The book, which grew from Carson's fascination with the seashore and the ocean as a result of vacations on the Atlantic coast, was well received. The narrative told the story of the seashore, the open sea, and the sea bottom.
Carson's important second book, The Sea Around Us, was published in 1951. Even more than her previous book, it was acclaimed for its approachable writing style. The Sea Around Us provides a layperson's geological guide through time and tide. In this book, Carson explores the mystery and treasures of the hidden world of the oceans, revealing its history and environment to the nonscientists. Carson maps the evolution of planet Earth—the formation of mountains, islands, and oceans—then moves into a more detailed description of the sea, starting with the sea surface and the creatures that live near the surface, descending through the depths to the sea bottom.
The Sea Around Us went to the top of the nonfiction best-seller list in the United States, won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction, was selected for the Book of the Month Club, and was condensed for Reader's Digest. It went into nine printings and was translated into thirty-three languages.
Such was the success of The Sea Around Us that it enabled Carson to accept a Guggenheim Fellowship and take a leave of absence from her job to start work on a third book, The Edge of the Sea, published in 1955. Written as a popular guide to the seashore, this book is a study of the ecological relationship between the Atlantic seashore and the animals that inhabit the coastline. While complementing her previous two books, this work evidences the growth of Carson's interest in the interrelationship of Earth's systems.
Rachel Carson's lasting reputation as a force in the environmental movement was made with her fourth and final book, Silent Spring, published in 1962. The title of the book was inspired by a phrase from a John Keats poem—"And no birds sing." Pesticides being sprayed indiscriminately were killing songbirds and thus bringing about the absence of birdsong: a silent spring.
In this book, Carson moves away from her focus on the sea and the land-sea interface to describe the interrelationship between communities and modern agricultural and industrial techniques. The book chronicles the disastrous results evident from the widespread use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and chemical treatments designed to increase agricultural production or simplify the production process.
As an example, Carson describes streams that became chemical soups, laden with the outpourings of chemical treatment plants. She describes runoff from fields treated with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, killing algae , plant life, fish, and animals. With this book, Carson educated the general public about the hazards of environmental contamination and made the case for careful consideration of both short-and long-term impacts of human-generated chemical contamination of our waterways.
The arguments contained in Silent Spring were not new. These concerns had been discussed in scientific journals, but Carson's approachable style brought the discussion of environmental management before a much wider general audience. On publication, Silent Spring attracted a great deal of adverse criticism, generated mostly by the chemical industry. More balanced reactions were found in the scientific press.
In 1963, the President's Science Advisory Committee concurred with Carson's assessment of the damage wrought by the widespread use of chemicals and the spiral of contamination that resulted from the development of ever more toxic treatments as insects developed resistance to pesticides. Her writing alerted the country to the dangers of chemical pollution to waters and helped transform water resources management.
see also Environmental Movement, Role of Water in the.
Bonta, Marcia Myers. Women in the Field: America's Pioneering Women Naturalists. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1991.
Brooks, Paul. The House of Life: Rachel Carson at Work. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1972.
Carson, Rachel. The Edge of the Sea. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1955.
——. The Sea Around Us. New York: Oxford University Press, 1951.
——. Silent Spring. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.
——. Under the Sea Wind. New York: Viking Penguin, 1941.
Lear, Linda J. Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. New York: Henry Holt, 1972.
The chemical dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT, is a synthetic organic compound introduced in the 1940s and used as an insecticide. Its continual build-up in the food chain caused concern for human and animal health. As a result, DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, 10 years after the publication of Silent Spring. DDT remains in use in many countries of the world.
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"Carson, Rachel." Water:Science and Issues. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/carson-rachel
Rachel Carson was an American biologist and writer whose book Silent Spring awakened the public to the dangers of pollution and its impact on the environment. Because of her work, she is considered a pioneer in the modern environmental movement.
Childhood and education
Rachel Louise Carson was born May 27, 1907, in Springdale, Pennsylvania. A quiet child who kept to herself, she spent long hours learning about nature through her mother, a musician and schoolteacher. Carson's mother also inspired her daughter's interest in literature, and at a very young age Carson knew she wanted to become a writer. Carson sealed her ambitions to write when, at the age of ten, she published her first piece in a national children's magazine.
In high school, Carson was an intelligent and motivated student who impressed her teachers. In college Carson studied English at the Pennsylvania College for Women in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But she changed her major to biology after rediscovering her love for science. After earning her undergraduate degree, she studied creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a master's degree. She completed her postgraduate studies at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts.
Biologist to celebrated writer
In 1936 Carson served as an aquatic biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. A year later Carson published a well-received essay in the national publication Atlantic Monthly, which would ultimately lead to her first book, Under the Sea Wind (1941). She soon became editor-in-chief of the Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, a department dedicated to the conservation (protection) of wildlife. During this time she honed her writing skills, which focused on wildlife conservation. In 1951 The Sea around Us brought its author instant fame. At the top of the best-seller list for thirty-nine weeks, it was translated into thirty languages. For the book the shy, soft-spoken Carson received the National Book Award, the Gold Medal of the New York Zoological Society, and the John Burroughs Medal.
The following year Carson left the government to undertake full-time writing and research. As a scientist and as an observant human being, the overwhelming effects of technology upon the natural world increasingly disturbed her. She wrote at the time: "I suppose my thinking began to be affected soon after atomic science [an energy process which can have an extreme effect on the environment] was firmly established … It was pleasant to believe that much of Nature was forever beyond the tampering reach of man: I have now opened my eyes and my mind. I may not like what I see, but it does no good to ignore it."
Takes on pollution
When Silent Spring appeared in 1962, the poetic pen and scientific mind of Carson produced an impact equaled by few scientists. In fact, she had aroused an entire nation. More than a billion dollars worth of chemical sprays were being sold and used in America each year. Carson traced the course of chlorinated hydrocarbons, a harmful substance found in the pesticides (chemicals used to protect crops from insects), through energy cycles and food chains. She learned that highly toxic (deadly) materials, contaminating the environment and lasting for many years in waters and soils, also tended to build up in the human body. Insect species that were the targets for these poisons began developing immunities (resistance) to pesticides, and because of these poisons in the insects, birds were not reproducing. In fact, the entire food chain and environmental balance was becoming disrupted because of these chemicals. Carson proposed strict limitations on spraying programs and an accelerated research effort to develop natural and biological controls for harmful insects.
The pesticide industry reacted with a massive campaign to damage the reputation of Carson and her findings. Firmly and gently, she spent the next two years educating the public at large. "I think we are challenged as mankind has never been challenged before," she once said, "to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves." She died on April, 14, 1964, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Though her work was just beginning at the time of her death, through her pen Carson opened the eyes of a nation and inspired environmental activism in a country that was rapidly losing its own natural resources.
For More Information
Graham, Frank. Since Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1970.
Lear, Linda. Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. New York: H. Holt, 1997.
Lear, Linda, ed. Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998.
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Biologist and Author 1907-1964
Rachel Louise Carson was born on May 27, 1907, the youngest child of farming and teaching parents in Springdale, Pennsylvania. The 24-hectare (60-acre) homestead was an oasis of orchards, streams, and woods in the grimy Allegheny River Valley, which had been heavily polluted by the coal and steel industries. Carson's parents were a particularly gentle couple who encouraged in their daughter a love of books and nature and a deep belief in sharing Earth with all other living beings. She became a published author for the first time at the age of eleven and later said that the thrill of seeing her story in print and the princely prize of ten dollars set her on her life's course.
Carson received a scholarship to Pennsylvania College for Women and made the shocking decision to major in biology at a time when there were virtually no jobs for women scientists. Upon graduation, she was offered a summer internship at Woods Hole, Massachusetts—a famous ocean research center—and a full scholarship to John Hopkins University, where she earned her master's degree in biology. During the massive unemployment of the Great Depression of the 1930s, Carson took the civil service exam and became the first woman to be hired as a biologist by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. During World War II (1939-1945) she was assistant to the chief of the office of information at the newly renamed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. During this period she began a series of books about the ocean and how the lives of its inhabitants—birds, fish, eels, and crustaceans—are intricately linked to one another and to the sea around them. All three of the books— Under the Sea-Wind, published in 1941, The Sea Around Us, published in 1951, and The Edge of the Sea, published in 1955—became bestsellers, and they catapulted Carson into national celebrity and allowed her to become a full-time writer.
In 1962 the publication of her fourth book, Silent Spring, caused a nationwide uproar over the dangers and benefits of unregulated pesticide use. Government study panels were convened, grassroots conservation and environmental movements were organized, and laws were passed in the wake of this latest Carson best-seller, which was promptly translated into over a dozen languages. Despite vicious attacks by the chemical interests, other scientists validated the warnings in Silent Spring, and Carson became a national hero. She was awarded numerous honors by such groups as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Animal Welfare Institute. She was the first woman to be awarded the Audubon Medal, and she received a posthumous Medal of Freedom. Carson died of breast cancer on April 14, 1964, with the hope that she would be remembered in connection with all that is lovely and beautiful.
see also DDT; Pesticide; Silent Spring.
Harlan, Judith. Sounding the Alarm. Minneapolis: Dillon Press, 1989.
Jezer, Marty. Rachel Carson. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.
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Rachel Louise Carson
Rachel Louise Carson
Rachel Louise Carson (1907-1964) was an American biologist and writer whose book Silent Spring aroused an apathetic public to the dangers of chemical pesticides.
Rachel Carson was born May 27, 1907, in Springdale, Pa. A solitary child, she spent long hours learning of field, pond, and forest from her mother. At college she studied creative writing and in 1932 obtained a master's degree in biology from the Johns Hopkins University. She did postgraduate studies at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.
In 1936, Carson served as an aquatic biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. After her first book, Under the Sea Wind (1941), she soon became editor in chief of the Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. In 1951 The Sea around Us brought its author instant fame. At the top of the best-seller list for 39 weeks, it was translated into 30 languages. For it, the shy, soft-spoken Carson received the National Book Award, the Gold Medal of the New York Zoological Society, and the John Burroughs Medal.
The following year Carson left the government to undertake fulltime writing and research. As a scientist and as an observant human being, she was increasingly disturbed by the overwhelming effects of technology upon the natural world. She wrote at the time: "I suppose my thinking began to be affected soon after atomic science was firmly established … It was pleasant to believe that much of Nature was forever beyond the tampering reach of man: I have now opened my eyes and my mind. I may not like what I see, but it does no good to ignore it."
When Silent Spring appeared in 1962, the lyric pen and analytical mind of Carson produced an impact equaled by few scientists; she aroused an entire nation. More than a billion dollars worth of chemical sprays was being sold and used in America each year. But when Carson traced the course of chlorinated hydrocarbons through energy cycles and food chains, she found that highly toxic materials, contaminating the environment and persisting for many years in waters and soils, also tended to accumulate in the human body. While target insect species were developing immunities to pesticides, because of these poisons birds were not reproducing. She proposed strict limitations on spraying programs and an accelerated research effort to develop natural, biological controls for harmful insects.
The pesticide industry reacted with a massive campaign to discredit Carson and her findings. Firmly and gently, she spent the next 2 years educating the public at large: "I think we are challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves." She died on April, 14, 1964, at Silver Spring, Md.
The most authoritative book on Rachel Carson and the pesticide issue is Frank Graham, Since Silent Spring (1970). The references in the back of the book are recommended for up-to-date information on pesticides, their use, and control. □
"Rachel Louise Carson." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rachel-louise-carson
"Rachel Louise Carson." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rachel-louise-carson
American science writer and naturalist 1907–1964
Rachel Louise Carson was a career government biologist and author who forever changed public attitudes about the environment. Her eloquent writing about environmental pollution and the natural history of the oceans earned Carson the title "founder of the modern environmental movement."
Carson was the youngest of three children and grew up near the western Pennsylvania town of Springdale. Her mother inspired in Rachel a lifelong love of nature and biology. In 1929, Carson graduated with honors from the Pennsylvania College for Women, and in 1932 earned a master's degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University.
Soon after, the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries hired Carson to write radio scripts, and the Baltimore Sun newspaper published her feature articles about natural history. In 1936, when she was twenty-nine, Carson began working as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, eventually becoming editor in chief for all its publications. Carson also wrote lyric prose about nature for national magazines and published a half dozen books. Among these were The Sea Around Us (1951), which won a National Book Award, and Silent Spring (1962), which created a worldwide awareness of the dangers of pesticides.
Carson was attacked by the chemical industry as an hysterical alarmist who didn't know what she was talking about. But history has proved that she was right. At the time, her calm demeanor, impeccable credentials, and articulate arguments persuaded the world that human-made chemicals could indeed drive birds and other animals to extinction. President John F. Kennedy read Carson's book, and was inspired to call for safety testing of pesticides. These tests eventually lead to the banning of DDT, a pesticide that persists in the environment and harms humans as well as most other animals.
see also Endangered Species; Pollution and Bioremediation
Carson, Rachel. The Sea Around Us. New York: Oxford University Press, 1951.——. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.
Kudlinski, Kathleen V. Rachel Carson: Pioneer of Ecology. New York: Puffin Books,1989.
Lear, Linda. Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1997.
"Carson, Rachel." Biology. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/carson-rachel-0
"Carson, Rachel." Biology. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/carson-rachel-0
Rachel Louise Carson (1907–1964) was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania, a small rural town on the banks of the Allegheny River. Carson became one of the few students to major in biology at the Pennsylvania College for Women, and, in 1932, she received an M.A. in zoology from Johns Hopkins University. Carson was deterred from continuing graduate-level work because there were limited opportunities for women in the sciences, and also because she was the breadwinner for her widowed mother and orphaned nieces. Instead, Carson secured employment with the United States Bureau of Fisheries (later known as the Fish and Wildlife Service). She worked at the bureau for sixteen years as an aquatic biologist and wrote many of the pamphlets on its programs. During this period she also wrote her first two books, Under the Sea-Wind (1941) and The Sea Around Us (1951). The original impetus for Silent Spring (1962), Carson's seminal work, came during World War II. The pesticide DDT (dichloro diphenyltrichloroethane) had been hailed as a technological marvel after the city of Naples, fearing an epidemic of typhus in 1943, dusted the city and its citizens with this potent chemical and eradicated the disease. From her position in the government, however, Carson became aware of the mounting scientific evidence that pointed to DDT's ineffectiveness as well as its potential hazards. She approached Reader's Digest in 1945 with the idea for an article on the dangers of pesticides to the natural world, but was rejected. After the success of her second book allowed her to pursue writing full-time, Carson returned to the idea. In Silent Spring, Carson translated science into a populist language and placed pesticides on the nation's public health agenda. While working on Silent Spring, Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer, and, two years after its publication, she lost this personal battle on April 14, 1964.
(see also Environmental Determinants of Health; Environmental Movement; Pollution; Toxicology )
Brooks, P. (1972). The House of Life: Rachel Carson at Work. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Lear, L. J. (1997). Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
"Carson, Rachel." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/carson-rachel
"Carson, Rachel." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/carson-rachel
Married Ed Begley, Jr. (an actor), August 23, 2000; children: Hayden Carson.
Rachel, Kill Crazy, Media Home Entertainment, 1990.
Cathy, Eating, International Rainbow, 1990.
Graham's stepmom, But I'm a Cheerleader, Lions Gate Films, 1999.
Harley Jones, Once Upon a Christmas, Viacom, 2000.
Sophie, Diary of a Sex Addict, Nu Image Films, 2001.
Rita, Net Games (also known as Net G@mes), V Releasing Corp., 2003.
Lynda Ernest, Going Down, PAIA Pictures, 2003.
Herself, Behind the Scenes of "Going Down" (documentary short; also known as The Making of "Going Down"), PAIA Pictures, 2004.
St. Anthony's nurse, Stateside (also known as Sinners), Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2004.
Maria, Alone in a Crowd (short), 2005.
Dee Dee Kulakundis, Hard Four, 2005.
Ashley, Nursie, Skouras Ventura Film Partners, 2005.
Running Out of Time in Hollywood, 2006.
Georgette, One Long Night, 2006.
Herself, Pittsburgh, 2006.
Taylor's mother, He's Such a Girl, 2007.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Lisa, Get Smart, Again!, ABC, 1989.
Eliza Van Dusen, Hounded, The Disney Channel, 2001.
Harley Jones, Twice Upon a Christmas (also known as Rudolfa's Revenge), PAX, 2001.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Joanne Finch, "Body & Soul," Falcon Crest, CBS, 1987.
Joanna Finch, "Loose Cannons," Falcon Crest, CBS, 1987.
Joanna Finch, "Chain Reaction," Falcon Crest, CBS, 1987.
Jill, "Love Story," Providence, NBC, 2001.
State of Grace, Fox Family, 2001.
Donna Pinto, "Party Over Here," Lizzie McGuire, The Disney Channel, 2002.
Waitress, "Street Boss," The Handler, CBS, 2003.
Sharon Adelman, "Dinner with Friends," Happy Family, NBC, 2003.
Cindy, Happy Family, NBC, 2003.
Woman, "Out of the Box," 8 Simple Rules … for Dating My Teenage Daughter (also known as 8 Simple Rules), ABC, 2004.
Lillian Jacobs, "Old Man Quiver," NYPD Blue, ABC, 2005.
Sex, Love & Secrets, UPN, 2005.
Cesar and Ruben, El Portal Theatre, North Hollywood, CA, 2003.
"Carson, Rachel." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/carson-rachel
"Carson, Rachel." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/carson-rachel