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About Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson, 1940

On May 27, 2007, the world celebrated the 100th anniversary of Rachel Carson's life. She was an American biologist who cared deeply about the natural world around her, and whose work has the potential to dramatically change the way we live – if we heed her message.

After receiving a master's degree in biology from Johns Hopkins, Ms. Carson worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as a biologist and writer. She also lectured, wrote articles for magazines as well as publications for the Fish and Wildlife Service, where she eventually rose to become their editor-in-chief. In 1940 she wrote her first book, Under the Sea Wind  Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer, through which she shared with the world her passion for the ocean.

While doing oceanic research and journaling the Maine coast, Rachel was so consumed by the magic and majesty of the ocean and its myriad forms of life that she wrote her second book The Sea Around Us Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer. In it, she expressed not only her love and knowledge of marine life, but also her concerns: warning of the danger of indiscriminate dumping, and speaking out against burying hazardous materials into the ocean. The book soon became a best seller, due both to Carson's clarity of thought and her lyrical writing style.

In March 1952, she won the National Book Award for the Sea Around Us. In April 1952  Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer, she also received the Burroughs Medal. The Burroughs Medal is given each year for a work that is judged to be distinguished in the field of natural history.

With the success of this book, she retired from FWS and devoted herself to being a full-time author. Her third book, The Edge of the Sea Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer also became a best seller.

Perhaps her most important and controversial book was Silent Spring  Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer also became a best seller.. It focuses on the deadly impact on the ecosystem resulting from the widespread, indiscriminate use of pesticides. One example she cited was DDT's devastating effect on bird populations. In this book, published in 1962, she spoke of her concern, that if the conditions of widespread indiscriminate pesticide use continued, one effect could be a "spring without [bird] voices." (Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, p. 2) With the publication of this book she became a prominent environmental advocate, the mother of the modern environmental movement.

In The Sense of Wonder Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer (written in the 1950s and published in a magazine in 1956), Carson used lyrical passages about the beauty of nature and the joy of helping children develop a sense of its wonder, of curiosity, and love of nature. It was later published posthumously, as a book, and illustrated with wonderful nature photography. In it, Ms. Carson wrote that she would endow every child with "a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life." However, "if a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."

An often overlooked aspect of The Sense of Wonder, is the sense of healing that can accompany a "sense of wonder experience." Rachel Carson mentioned this when she wrote, "There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after the night and spring after the winter." And it is also important to remember how nature can serve as a source of strength, as she noted with the comment from the book, that, "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts."

To read more about Rachel Carson written by Linda Leer please see http://www.rachelcarson.org/?v1=About%22 Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer

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