Rachel Carson – May 27, 1907 (Pennsylvania) – April 14, 1964 (Maryland)
Marine Biologist and writer, Rachel Carson, is considered one of the leading voices in environmental conservation and, what we now call, climate change movements.
Having grown up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, near the industrial steel town of Pittsburg, lead Ms. Carson to question how the choices humans make in the “advancement of society” affect the planet and its wildlife both on land and in the sea. From a young age, she wrote about her observations of the natural environment. After gaining degrees from the Women’s College of Pennsylvania and John Hopkins University in marine biology and zoology, she went to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There, she wrote educational pamphelets and other materials for the agency about conservation and marine life. Her talents as a science writer eventually lead to her promotion as Editor-in-Chief of all U.S. Fish and Wildlife publications. In addition to her work with Fish and Wildlife, she traveled as a lecturer and edited scientific journals for her peers.
The thing, however, that brought her to the forefront of environmental and climate change issues was the publication of three books: Under the Sea-Wind (1941), The Sea Around Us (1951), and Silent Spring (1962). While the first two were beautifully written prose about the marine world that became best-sellers and brought her both professional and financial success, it was the latter that brought her international attention as a leading voice in the scientific community. Published in the wake of World War II, at a time when pesticide use had become prolific, Carson questioned the effects of those chemicals upon the earth and its creatures, and whether humans had a right to alter the natural environment, sometimes irreversibly, with them.
Both in the book and in person, she was very outspoken about the use of the pesticide, DDT. The chemical industry pushed back, trying to discredit her name and blow off her concerns as foolish. Undeterred, Ms. Carson continued to voice her worries about its use, testifying before the U.S. Congress, in 1963, to lobby for policy that would prohibit DDT’s, and other chemicals known to have negative environmental and climate effects, use. The findings she presented there, were later substantiated by a presidential commision. Ms. Carson died of complications related to a long fight with breast cancer the following year. Her work, however, became the igniting force behind an environmental movement that eventually led to the banning of DDT in the U.S. and the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.