Carson, Rachel

Carson, Rachel (Louise)

(1907–64) marine biologist, environmentalist, writer; born in Springdale, Pa. She grew up close to nature on a Pennsylvania farm, graduated from the Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College) in 1929, and went on to do advanced study at Johns Hopkins University. She taught at the University of Maryland for five years before joining the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1936. Her first book, Under the Sea-Wind (1941) described marine life in clear, elegant, and non-technical prose. She retained her government job through the 1940s, in part because she had taken on the responsibility of supporting her mother and her sister's two orphaned daughters. In 1951 she published The Sea Around Us; it became an immediate best-seller and freed her from financial worry. During the 1950s she conducted research into the effects of pesticides on the food chain. It led to the publication of her most influential work, Silent Spring (1962), which condemned the indiscriminate use of pesticides, especially DDT (later banned). The book led to a presidential commission that largely endorsed her findings, and helped shape a growing environmental consciousness.
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