Wednesday Geek Woman: Rachel Carson

This is a guest post by L. Minter. L. Minter is a feminist biology student and a blogger at Feminist Book Club.

Rachel Carson was born on a farm in Pennsylvania where she was an avid reader and had her first story published when she was eleven. She attended Pennsylvania College for Women (now known as Chatham University) where she started an english degree but later switched to biology. She continued her studies of Zoology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins University. She earned her Master’s degree and intended to obtain a doctorate’s but was forced to quit school due to family and financial situations.

She became the Junior Aquatic Biologist (and only the second women to be hired full time) at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. During this time she featured several articles in the Baltimore Sun and in 1941, published Under the Sea Wind, which received excellent reviews. She continued to publish articles for Sun Magazine and Nature. In 1950, she published The Sea Around Us, which became a bestseller and award-winning documentary. After the success of The Sea Around Us, she re-released Under the Sea Wind, which also became a bestseller.

It was also during this time that she became interested in DDT, a new pesticide that had undergone very few tests. Because of the success of her two bestselling books, she became a full time writer and published At the Edge of the Sea, which describes coastal ecosystems, particularly along the Atlantic.

Arguably, her most influential piece of work was the book Silent Spring, where she recounts the ecological horrors caused by the indiscriminate spraying of pesticides. Silent Spring was so moving and so successful (as well as controversial), that it led to the ban of DDT and is widely credited with sparking the environmental movement.

During her last year, although battling cancer, she gave many speeches at receptions and dinners held in her honor and received many awards for her lifetime achievements, including: The Audubon Medal from the National Audubon Society, the Cullum Medal from the American Geographical Society, and was inducted into the National Academy of Arts and Letters.

Her philosophies about the environment and how we treat it are not only still very relevant, but her work is still widely used and valuable in the science and environmental community.

Wikipedia: Rachel Carson

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