The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson is known as the biologist  that informed the world of the environmental impact of fertilizers and pesticides. Her best-known book, Silent Spring, helped to raise awareness of our impact on the environment.

 

Rachel Louise Carson was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania on May 27, 1902. She grew up on a large farm where she grew a love for animals and nature. Rachel’s mother sparked her interest in literature at a very young age. Rachel wanted to become a writer! And at the age of 10, Rachel already published her first piece in a children’s magazine. 

 

Rachel went to the Pennsylvania College for Women to study English, but changed her major to biology.  She graduated magna cum laude  in 1929, and studied zoology  and genetics at the John Hopkins University. After one year, she had to become a part-time student, so that she could work in order to fund her studies. In 1932 she earned her Master’s degree. Rachel wanted to continue studying, but had to start working to help support her family during the Great Depression

 

She took a temporary job with the US Bureau of Fisheries, writing for a radio program called Romance Under the Waters. Rachel was so successful at this job that she was hired as a junior biologist.  She was only the second woman to be hired for a full-time job by the Bureau of Fisheries.

Rachel Louise Carson

Part of Rachel’s job was writing brochures for the public to read. Her writing was so good that a publisher wanted her to write a book, Under the Sea Wind, which was released in 1941. Rachel’s second book, The Sea Around Us, was released in 1951. It was so successful that she could quit her job and write full-time. She released her third book, The Edge of the Sea, in 1955.

 

After writing her first three books about ocean life, Rachel decided to focus on something else, the environment. She was concerned about how many pesticides were being sprayed, and what effect that had on animals as well as humans.

 

She started researching, speaking to dozens of scientists, and reading all the latest information available. One of the pesticides she investigated was called DDT.  This pesticide was being used all over the country, even though scientists figured out that it could cause cancer. DDT also harmed, not only the insects that farmers were trying to get rid of, but birds and fishes, and any other wildlife that got it into their bodies.

 

Rachel turned all this research into her fourth book, Silent Spring. In this book, she tried to warn the world about not overusing pesticides. She claimed that the pesticides would build up in the environment, in animals, and in human beings if we were not careful. This would cause a lot of harm to humanity and nature.

 

Some people didn’t like what Rachel wrote in her book. They tried to convince people that what she wrote wasn’t true, or that it wasn’t as bad as she said. Luckily, there were many scientists who agreed with Rachel, and the US government decided to partially ban certain pesticides such as DDT . Rachel was a very big influence in the government taking this decision.

Rachel Louise Carson
Rachel Carson conducting Marine Biology Research in the Atlantic (1952)

Silent Spring was very popular with the public. A television show was also made about the book, and millions of people watched it. With so many people hearing the truth about the dangers of pesticides, 

 

Rachel died of a heart attack in 1964, brought on by cancer that she had been fighting for years.

Thanks to the impact of Rachel, people started to take action. In 1970, eight years after Silent Spring came out, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. This was directly linked to what Rachel wrote in her book. DDT was banned in America in 1972.

 

Many people started to join the environmentalist movement, and Rachel was one of their main inspirations. This movement still exists today, fighting for the environment wherever they are needed.

 

Unfortunately, Rachel was not able to witness the amazing legacy that she left behind. A pioneer of conservation, even today she is still inspiring us to protect our environment, and leave a better world behind for future generations.

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 8.3

 

Flesch Kincaid reading ease score: 64.8

Glossary

Biologist: Someone who studies the biology of humans, plants, or animals.

 

Magna cum laude: This means that someone has passed with great distinction, having done very well in their studies

 

Zoology: The study of the biology of animals.

 

DDT: Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, a pesticide that was widely used after World War 2

Rachel Carson Biography. Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved from https://www.notablebiographies.com/Ca-Ch/Carson-Rachel.html

 

Rachel Carson Biography. Biography.com. Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/scientist/rachel-carson

 

Rachel Carson Biography. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Retrieved from https://www.fws.gov/refuge/rachel_carson/about/rachelcarson.html

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