A shy young woman who loved books and nature equally well, Rachel Carson trained as a zoologist. She joined the Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington to work on their publications.
In 1951, she came to national prominence when her book, The Sea Around Us, topped the best seller list for 86 weeks. Her graceful prose opened scientific knowledge about the oceans to the layperson. An earlier work, Under the Sea Wind, was reissued. When she studied marine life in Maine for her next book, The Edge of the Sea, she stayed for hours wading in icy tidal pools until she was so numb with cold, she had to be carried out.
She was not by nature a crusader, but when aerial spraying of DDT killed the birds in a friend’s bird sanctuary, she began to investigate the effects of pesticides on the chain of life. “The environment” and “ecology” have since become household words for Americans, but it all began with her Silent Spring in 1962.
Driven by the knowledge that the book was desperately needed, she pored over and combined the work of many individual researchers. She wrote of the heedless pesticide poisoning of our rivers and soils, warning that we might soon face a spring when no bird songs could
Rachel Carson had to weather a storm of controversy and abuse, and she did not live to see the eventual banning of DDT. Today the environmentalist movement carries on the work she began, preserving our natural heritage for the future.