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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Rachel Carson

b. 1907, Springdale, Pennsylvania; d. 1964, Silver Spring, Maryland

“Miss Carson, what do you eat?” And she replied, “Chlorinated hydrocarbons like everyone else.”

Rachel Carson, catalyst of the modern environmental movement, developed a love for the natural world as a young child, along with a determination to convey that appreciation to others through writing. After taking degrees in biology and zoology, in 1932 she began teaching at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Soon she was writing a radio program, “Romance Under the Waters,” for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1936, she took a job with the agency as an aquatic biologist, eventually becoming chief editor of its publications. In her own writings, geared to the general public, she combined scientific accuracy and an accessible prose style. She published many articles and books, including Under the Sea-Wind (1941); the best-selling The Sea Around Us (1951), which allowed her to retire and devote herself entirely to writing; and The Edge of the Sea (1955). Her last work, the groundbreaking Silent Spring (1962), a study of the dangers of chemical pesticides (which she termed “biocides”), created international awareness of environmental pollution and inspired a generation of activists.

“People and Discoveries: Rachel Carson, 1907–1964.” PBS: A Science Odyssey, at: