Rachel Carson

(1907 - 1964)

Rachel Carson, author and ecologist, attended Pennsylvania College for Women, majoring in English with a career in writing in mind. Two years later a required course in biology changed her mind and she became a zoology major. Later in life, she combined the two fields, and became an influential force in the ecology movement.

She taught zoology after receiving her Masters degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1932. Her writing career began with a series of articles on aquatic life for the Baltimore Sunday Sun. Subsequently, she secured a civil service appointment with the Fish and Wildlife Service as a "Junior aquatic biologist." In 1952, she retired as biologist and chief editor. Her associates remember her wit and humor as well as her literary talents.

Silent Spring, one of her most famous and controversial works, was published in 1962, and was called by Justice William O. Douglass, "the most important chronicle of this century for the human race." In Silent Spring, Carson warned against the indiscriminate use of chemicals upsetting the balance of nature. The book prompted a controversy among conservationists, the chemical industry, and the Department of Agriculture. Ms. Carson learned that she had cancer during the writing of Silent Spring. She died in 1964 at her home in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Many awards came to her the last year of her life, and she was able to receive them herself. Among them, her most treasured was the Cullum Medal of the American Geographical Society, which was awarded to only three other women at that time. Rachel Carson believed that "what is important is the relation of man to all life."

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 1985.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2001