Rachel Carson

Biologist, Environmentalist and Writer

Why She’s Amazing

Rachel didn’t want to be a princess. She wanted to be more.

Rachel loved nature as a child, and she turned that passion into a career that made a lasting impact on the world. Rachel became a marine biologist, environmentalist and writer who alerted the world to the environmental impact of fertilizers and pesticides. She is known as the founder of the global environmental movement. Her legacy also includes the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

She wrote and published four books, including her best-known book, Silent Spring, which led to a presidential commission that largely endorsed her findings and helped to shape a growing environmental consciousness. All of Rachel’s books highlighted her love of nature while also serving as a warning of how humans needed to be more aware of how their actions affect the environment.

Rachel received many awards for her work, including:

  • Second woman to be elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters
  • National Book Award
  • John Burroughs Medal
  • Honorary degrees from several universities
  • Posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Carter in 1980

“It is not easy to be a pioneer – but oh, it is fascinating!” – Rachel Carson

Her Determination

Rachel faced objections to her dream of becoming a scientist merely because she was a girl. She was told to be a mother, cook or nurse. Rachel didn’t listen. Instead, she believed in herself and went on to earn a masters degree in marine zoology.
Rachel accepted a position with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries in 1935. She wrote radio scripts on marine life and these articles were published regularly by the Baltimore Sun. Her dedication and innovative perspective earned her the role of editor-in-chief of the information department.

From there, Rachel wrote her first book focused on the damage that chemicals, pesticides and man-made products were having on the environment. While the academic community backed the book’s scientific claims, the chemical trade industry groups and conservative legislators branded her as an alarmist and opposed to economic freedom.

Rachel was undeterred. She remained calm and convincing, and public opinion soon turned her way. Even more, Rachel spoke before Congress in 1963, calling for polices to be put in place that protect not only the environment, but also human health. Rachel’s determination and environmental legacy cannot be overstated.

A True Inspiration

Rachel is widely remembered as an early activist who worked to preserve the world for future generations. Her prose in Silent Spring gave voice to millions who opposed a value system that placed greater importance on economic efficiency than on ending the poisoning of the environment. An incredible validation came after Rachel’s death when the Editor-in-Chief of the Chemical & Engineering News Rudy M. Baum, acknowledged the power of Silent Spring almost two decades later in 2007.

Rachel’s inspiration also lives on through the Rachel Carson Award, a premier award honoring distinguished female leaders impacting the environmental world. The National Audubon Society’s Women in Conservation presents the award annually to recognize “women whose immense talent, expertise, and energy greatly advance conservation and the environmental movement locally and globally.”

Rachel once said, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” For her, the beauty of nature was worth the courage it took to protect it.

Fun Facts:

  • In its “100 most important people of the 20th Century” issue, Time magazine said, “Before there was an environmental movement, there was one brave woman and her very brave book.”
  • At just 10 years old, Rachel published her first story in St. Nicholas Magazine.
  • Before discovering her love of science, Rachel wanted to be a writer.
  • In 1981, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Rachel Carson stamp.
  • Rachel’s pesticide initiative led to the banning of DDT in the United States in 1972 and internationally in 2004.