Rachel Louise Carson (1907–1964) was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania, a small rural town on the banks of the Allegheny River. Carson became one of the few students to major in biology at the Pennsylvania College for Women, and, in 1932, she received an M.A. in zoology from Johns Hopkins University. Carson was deterred from continuing graduate-level work because there were limited opportunities for women in the sciences, and also because she was the breadwinner for her widowed mother and orphaned nieces. Instead, Carson secured employment with the United States Bureau of Fisheries (later known as the Fish and Wildlife Service). She worked at the bureau for sixteen years as an aquatic biologist and wrote many of the pamphlets on its programs. During this period she also wrote her first two books, Under the Sea-Wind (1941) and The Sea Around Us (1951). The original impetus for Silent Spring (1962), Carson's seminal work, came during World War II. The pesticide DDT (dichloro diphenyltrichloroethane) had been hailed as a technological marvel after the city of Naples, fearing an epidemic of typhus in 1943, dusted the city and its citizens with this potent chemical and eradicated the disease. From her position in the government, however, Carson became aware of the mounting scientific evidence that pointed to DDT's ineffectiveness as well as its potential hazards. She approached Reader's Digest in 1945 with the idea for an article on the dangers of pesticides to the natural world, but was rejected. After the success of her second book allowed her to pursue writing full-time, Carson returned to the idea. In Silent Spring, Carson translated science into a populist language and placed pesticides on the nation's public health agenda. While working on Silent Spring, Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer, and, two years after its publication, she lost this personal battle on April 14, 1964.
Brooks, P. (1972). The House of Life: Rachel Carson at Work. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Lear, L. J. (1997). Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. New York: Henry Holt and Company.