Monday, August 31, 2015

Rachel Carson, Marine Biologist and Ecologist

Written by Elisabeth Pendergrass

Born: May 27, 1907, Springdale, Pennsylvania
Died: April 14, 1964, Silver Spring Maryland

S.T.E.A.M. Powers

  • Marine Biologist
  • Ecologist -Writer -Activist
  • Mother of the Environmental Movement 

Her Story...

“Human beings were but one part of nature distinguished primarily by their power to alter it, in some irreversibly.” 
Often times, human beings forget that every single action we do has an effect on the world around us. Sometimes that effect is minimal and goes unnoticed, but sometimes those minimal actions build up over time and cause harm.. Rachel Carson was one of the women on the forefront of this notion. She fought for awareness and change in chemical regulations and government practices.

Rachel Carson was a woman with ideas that were far beyond her time . She was an empowered woman whose love for writing and science allowed her to bring awareness to the harmful effects of chemicals in the environment. Not only did she become an advocate for better government practices, she also wrote about the ocean and the magic it holds in such a lyrical and enthralling way.

Rachel Carson conducts research off the Florida Atlantic Coast with Bob Hines, 1952.
Image via U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
And So It Begins…
Rachel Carson was born on May 27 in 1907 on a farm in Springdale, Pennsylvania. At a very young age, her mother supported and pushed her to pursue her love for nature and writing. She was originally published in fourth grade, but her accomplishments were just beginning.

Although women were going to college during this period, it was not exactly a common occurrence. The fact that Rachel Carson attended and graduated from Pennsylvania College for Women in 1929 is a great feat. In between undergraduate school and graduate school, she worked at the Woods Hole Marine Biology Lab. She was awarded a full time scholarship to get her master’s at John Hopkin’s University in 1932 where she studied Marine Zoology. Regardless of the fact that her education focused on the sciences, Rachel’s love and talent for writing never subsided.

Headlines like this one in the New York Times in 1962 showed Carson's warnings were being taken seriously.
Image via Environment & Society Portal.
She is most well known as a writer for her published works like “The Sea Around Us” published in 1952 and “The Edge of the Sea” (c. 1955). Before these books were released, she was the Editor-in-Chief for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, but became a full time writer in 1952. She took her talents and loves and combined them to express science, the ocean, and its’ wonders in a lyrical, spiritual and emotional way.

Rachel Carson is a role model; I strive to have her courage and strength. In 1962, she wrote “Silent Spring” challenging the government to change their practices with chemical pesticides. She lived through World War II and was concerned for the health of society due to the massive misuse of chemicals throughout the war. She was often attacked by the chemical companies or disregarded due to her “alarmist” thoughts, but she held her ground. She stood up for what she believed in and brought human awareness to the fact that we are a key factor in a delicate system.

All rights reserved © 1963 Charles Schulz

But All Good Things Must Come to an End
Even during her long fight with breast cancer, she was continuously fighting to bring awareness to the issues of humanity’s effect on the environment. In the end, her hard work began to pay off. Her research, and support from the Science Advisory Committee, lead to state legislature for proper pesticide control and practices. Rachel Carson died on April 14th in 1964, but she continues to live on today in her pledge and in her words.
"I pledge myself to preserve and protect America's fertile soils, her mighty forests and rivers, her wildlife and minerals, for on these her greatness was established and her strength depends." ~Rachel Carson, 1946
In April 2014, Google honored Rachel Carson with her own logo for a day.

Learn More


Books by Rachel Carson:
  • Under the Sea-Wind, 1941
  • The Sea Around Us, 1951
  • The Edge of the Sea, 1955
  • Silent Spring, 1962
  • The Sense of Wonder, 1998 (posthumous publication)

Books About Rachel Carson:
  • Rachel Carson, Witness for Nature (Linda Lear, 1997)
  • On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson (William Souder, 2012)
  • Girls Who Looked Under Rocks (Atkins/Conner, 2012) - Excellent for young readers

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