Rachel Carson, May 27, 1907 to April 14, 1964, American Marine Biologist, Conservationist and Author
Carson began her career as an marine biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and then moved on to becoming a full-time nature writer in the 1950s, publishing her 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us. Next, she wrote The Edge of the Sea and re-released her first book as Under the Sea Wind, both bestsellers in her so-called sea trilogy. These books explore and celebrate ocean life and were written in such a way for both older and younger generations to understand and enjoy. Carson later became involved with conservation and environmental problems caused by synthetic pesticides, which resulted in her most famous book, Silent Spring. This triggered a reversal in national pesticide policy and the grassroots environmental movement which inspired the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.
Carson was born on a small family farm in Springdale, Pennsylvania, where she was an avid reader and spent lots of time exploring the surrounding area. This is where, at the age of eight, she began writing stories, usually involving animals, and had her first story published at the age of eleven. The natural world, especially the ocean, was among her favorite form of literature, so it was no surprise when she went on to study biology in high school, all the way through College.
Carson moved with her mother to Southport Island, Maine, in 1953, and in July of that year met Dorothy Freeman (1898–1978) — the beginning of an extremely close relationship that would last the rest of Carson’s life. Dorothy was a well known suffragist and feminist and is most well known for her own book, From Copper to Gold. They shared many common interests, such as nature and conservation, and their friendship helped Rachel through her long battle with breast cancer and anemia.
Carson’s work had a powerful impact on the environmental movement. Silent Spring, in particular, was a rallying point for the fledgling social movement in the 1960s. According to environmental engineer and Carson scholar H. Patricia Hynes, “Silent Spring altered the balance of power in the world. No one since would be able to sell pollution as the necessary underside of progress so easily or uncritically.” Carson’s work, and the activism it inspired, are at least partly responsible for the deep ecology movement, and the overall strength of the grassroots environmental movement since the 1960s. It was also influential on the rise of ecofeminism and on many feminist scientists. She remains an inspiration to young girls and environmentalists of all ages till this day.