Carson, Rachel

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

Jennie Dusheck


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.

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