1907-64, American writer, scientist, and marine biologist.
Rachel learned early to appreciate nature from her mother.
In 1929, she studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory; which later became the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Here she studied Marine Biology.
In 1932 earned her MA in zoology from Johns Hopkins University. She got a job working for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. In 1936 and rose to become Editor-in-Chief of all publications for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In 1945, Carson and Clarence Cottam had become alarmed by government use of new chemical pesticides such as DDT.
In 1952 she retired in order to write full time.
In 1957, there was a startling wildlife mortality in the wake of a mosquito-control campaign near Duxbury, Mass., followed by a pointless spraying of a DDT/fuel-oil mix over eastern Long Island for eradication of the gypsy moth.
Her 1962 "Silent Spring" an influential study on the dangers of insecticide was serialized in the The New Yorker. Before the article even appeared, the entire chemical industry engaged in a campaign to discredit the "hysterical woman". Their attacks backfired as it focused much more attention on the article than it might otherwise received. Once published as a book, it became a runaway best seller.
The essence of the problem is this:
Large quantities of chemicals (known as persistent organic pollutants) were sprayed over a wide area, absorbing into vegetation.
Insects and other invertibrates eat the vegetation, ingesting the chemicals.
Birds eat the invertibrates, the chemicals do not get broken down quickly, accumulating in their bodies.
Smaller birds are eaten by predator birds such as the Peregrine Falcon. The chemicals become even more concentrated, known as bioaccumulation or biological magnification.
The populations of Raptors become endangered as their offspring either do not hatch or are born weak and die soon after.
In 1964 she died of breast cancer.
Her writings include:
Silent Spring was declared 5th on Modern Library's 100 Best Books: Nonfiction.
Carson, Rachel, "Under the Sea Wind", Signet, NY, 1941
Carson, Rachel, "Sea Around Us, The", New American Library, 1950
Last Updated 04.21.04