Rachel Carson


Rachel Carson : biography

May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964

Many critics repeatedly asserted that she was calling for the elimination of all pesticides. Yet Carson had made it clear she was not advocating the banning or complete withdrawal of helpful pesticides, but was instead encouraging responsible and carefully managed use with an awareness of the chemicals’ impact on the entire ecosystem. In fact, she concludes her section on DDT in Silent Spring not by urging a total ban, but with advice for spraying as little as possible to limit the development of resistance.Carson, Silent Spring, 275

The academic community—including prominent defenders such as H. J. Muller, Loren Eisley, Clarence Cottam, and Frank Egler—by and large backed the book’s scientific claims; public opinion soon turned Carson’s way as well. The chemical industry campaign backfired, as the controversy greatly increased public awareness of potential pesticide dangers, as well as Silent Spring book sales. Pesticide use became a major public issue, especially after the CBS Reports TV special "The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson" that aired April 3, 1963. The program included segments of Carson reading from Silent Spring and interviews with a number of other experts, mostly critics (including White-Stevens); according to biographer Linda Lear, "in juxtaposition to the wild-eyed, loud-voiced Dr. Robert White-Stevens in white lab coat, Carson appeared anything but the hysterical alarmist that her critics contended."; quotation from 449. Reactions from the estimated audience of ten to fifteen million were overwhelmingly positive, and the program spurred a congressional review of pesticide dangers and the public release of a pesticide report by the President’s Science Advisory Committee. Within a year or so of publication, the attacks on the book and on Carson had largely lost momentum., accessed September 23, 2007

In one of her last public appearances, Carson had testified before President Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee. The committee issued its report on May 15, 1963, largely backing Carson’s scientific claims.. Retrieved September 23, 2007. Following the report’s release, she also testified before a Senate subcommittee to make policy recommendations. Though Carson received hundreds of other speaking invitations, she was unable to accept the great majority of them. Her health was steadily declining as her cancer outpaced the radiation therapy, with only brief periods of remission. She spoke as much as she was physically able, however, including a notable appearance on The Today Show and speeches at several dinners held in her honor. In late 1963, she received a flurry of awards and honors: the Audubon Medal (from the National Audubon Society), the Cullum Medal (from the American Geographical Society), and induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Weakened from breast cancer and her treatment regimen, Carson became ill with a respiratory virus in January 1964. Her condition worsened, and in February, doctors found that she had severe anemia from her radiation treatments and in March they discovered that the cancer had reached her liver. She died of a heart attack on April 14, 1964 in her home in Silver Spring, Maryland.


Works cited

List of works

  • Under the Sea Wind, 1941, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group, 1996, ISBN 0-14-025380-7
  • (with Vanez T. Wilson)
  • The Sea Around Us, Oxford University Press, 1951; Oxford University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-19-506997-8
  • The Edge of the Sea, Houghton Mifflin 1955; Mariner Books, 1998, ISBN 0-395-92496-0
  • Silent Spring, Houghton Mifflin, 1962; Mariner Books, 2002, ISBN 0-618-24906-0
    • Silent Spring initially appeared serialized in three parts in the June 16, June 23, and June 30, 1962 issues of The New Yorker magazine
  • The Sense of Wonder, 1965, HarperCollins, 1998: ISBN 0-06-757520-X published posthumously
  • Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman 1952–1964 An Intimate Portrait of a Remarkable Friendship, Beacon Press, 1995, ISBN 0-8070-7010-6 edited by Martha Freeman (granddaughter of Dorothy Freeman)
  • Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson, Beacon Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8070-8547-2
  • Bedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology, edited by Lauret E. Savoy, Eldridge M. Moores, and Judith E. Moores, Trinity University Press, 2006, ISBN 1-59534-022-X