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Rachel Carson, 1940
Rachel Carson, 1940

Rachel Carson 107th Birthday Google Doodle, May 27, 2014
  • She is considered the founder of the modern Environmental Movement

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 12.34.37 PM.pngRachel Carson Biography from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Rachel Carson Dies of Cancer; Silent Spring Author was 56, The New York Times, April 15, 1964

Rachel Carson's Legacy, from University of California Television

Pesticides, DDT, Rachel Carson and Silent Silent, from YouTube

Rachel Carson was born in 1907.
  • She excelled as a student, and went onto Pennsylvania College for Women. There, she changed her major from English to Biology.
  • Inspired by one of her professors, she won a summer scholarship to study marine biology, then another scholarship to continue her education at John Hopkins University studying Zoology.
  • She received her MA degree in 1932 with her thesis titled "The Development of the Pronephyros During the Embryonic and Early Larval Life of the Catfish."
    • She began pursuing her PhD, but the Great Depression and loss of her father forced her to prioritize working and taking care of her family.
Conducting Marine Biology Research, 1952
Conducting Marine Biology Research, 1952

She took part-time work at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries writing radio programs about marine biology.

As she moved up, her writing began to take off and be featured elsewhere. In 1939, her article titled "Undersea" is published in Atlantic Monthly.

In 1939, she became an Assistant Aquatic Biologist.

Under the Sea Wind and the The Sea Around Us opened Carson up to a much wider audience, and by 1952, she was able to focus on writing full-time,

As her writing career continued to thrive, she became increasingly concerned with the overuse of pesticides. In 1962, she published Silent Spring.

external image 220px-SilentSpring.jpg

book.pngSilent Spring is largely focused on the detrimental effects of pesticide usage.
  • The most prominent of her targets is DDT, which was a very popular pesticide but which Carson claimed could accumulate in organisms over long periods of time and which was especially harmful to marine wildlife and birds of prey.
    • She also argued that overuse of pesticides could create strains of organisms that were resistant to them.

The book, much like Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, created an immediate response from both the public and the chemical industry.
  • The book, which received wide recognition from its serialization in the New Yorker, was well received scientifically, but lambasted by chemical companies such as DuPont and Velsicol, who threatened legal action.
    • Many conservative groups targeted Carson herself (who was undergoing treatment for cancer at the time).

Female_Rose.pngSecretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson said that she was probably a communist since she was unmarried.

Nevertheless, Silent Spring raised the public awareness of ecological issues and led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, and the banning of DDT in 1972, as well starting an entire wave of grassroots environmentalism

primary_sources.PNGExcerpt from Silent Spring


  • Timeline of Rachel Carson's life
    • Timeline of the modern environmentalism movement
      • Timeline of environmentalism during the 1960's

lessonplan.jpgRachel Carson: The Coming of a Silent Spring from TeacherVision
    • Grade levels: 6-8
    • Objective: The students will learn how environmental concerns affect their lives and community.

lessonplan.jpgRachel Carson from The Walking Classroom Institute
    • Grade levels: 5-7
    • Objectives:
      • identify the key contributions that Rachel Carson made to the environmental movement
      • discuss how a book like Silent Spring could make a big impact even though companies that produced dangerous chemicals protested against it
      • understand why Rachel Carson was so concerned about chemicals like pesticides

lessonplan.jpgRachel Carson from PBS
    • Grade levels: 6-12
    • Objective:
      • Read and respond to the first chapter of Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson.
      • Use viewing skills and note taking strategies to understand and interpret a video clip.
      • Participate in a class discussion about the risks that Carson took when speaking out about established practices, as well as how science and society influence one another.
      • Watch a slideshow of photographs that highlight important aspects of Carson's life and career.
      • Write a paragraph that describes how Carson's personal qualities helped her to be a more effective scientist.

primary_sources.PNGResearch Guide to collections and other information on Rachel Carson and her work.

rotating gif.gifsee also Influential Women in American History