Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson was born in May 27, 1907 on a farm in Springdale, Pennsylvania. Overcoming the hardships of a poor family, she was able in 1929 to graduated from the Pennsylvania College for Women in Pittsburgh, PA, now known as Chatham College. She then attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and received an M.A. in Marine Biology from there in 1932. Rachel then taught Zoology at the University of Maryland, spending her summers studying at the Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole, MA.

Rather than pursuing her desired career in research, she then went to work in Washington, DC for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, now known as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While moving through the ranks in the publications department there, she also had the opportunity to pursue her interests in writing, publishing numerous books and articles about nature and the environment. She had a wonderful knack for being able to write about science in a manner non-scientific readers could understand and enjoy.

Her success as an author, particularly with the best-seller The Sea Around Us (1951), which was on the nonfiction best-seller list for 39 weeks and won the National Book Award, eventually allowed her to retire and write full-time. In 1962 Rachel published her most famous book (some would say infamous), Silent Spring. For years she had been concerned about the negative effects of pesticides on nature (a friend's birds had once been killed by arial spraying of the pesticide DDT) but had been unable to get anything published about the topic.

Finally, merging her expertise as a writer and scientist with other researcher's findings on these topics, she completed and published Silent Spring, which became an overnight controversy and success. She had proven that DDT and other agricultural chemicals were harming both nature and humans, perhaps permanently, and in sharing her findings with everyone had raised their environmental consciousness. The chemical/pesticide industry was outraged, and even tried to have the book banned, though unsuccessfully.

Ironically, Rachel Carson became sick with cancer while writing Silent Spring, and died on April 14, 1964, shortly after the book was published. She did not live long enough to see DDT eventually banned, but as founder of the modern environmental movement, her words and her work live on in her stead.

Kate Campbell Stevenson presents: Women: Back to the Future
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