Rachel Carson Rachel Carson Hello, my name is Rachel Lousie Carson. I was born on a farm in Springdale, Pennsylvania on May 27, 1907. My mother, Maria McLean Carson was a dedicated teacher and throughout my childhood she encouraged my interests in nature and in writing.
She also encouraged me to publish my first story A Battle in the Clouds in the St. Nicholas magazine while I was in fourth grade. After graduating from Parnassus High School, I enrolled into the Pennsylvania College for Women. I majored in English and continued to write but I also had to take two semesters of science, which changed my life. In my junior year I changed my major to zoology, even though science was not considered an appropriate avenue for women.
After graduating college in 1928 I had earned a full one year scholarship to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. This scholarship did not relieve me or my family of our financial burdens, so I worked throughout graduate school in the genetics department assisting Dr. Raymond Pearl and Dr. H.S. Jennings and I worked as an assistant teacher in the zoology department at the University of Maryland.
In 1932 I received my masters in marine zoology. I continued working part-time as a teacher after graduating to help support my family through the early years of the Depression. In 1935 my father had a heart attack and passed away leaving me to provide for my mother. In 1936, my sister Marion passed away at the age of forty leaving behind two young daughters, and my mother encouraged me to take them in.
That same year I took the civil service examination necessary for promotion to full-time junior aquatic biologist. I scored higher than all the other candidates ( who were all male) and became the first female biologist ever hired by the Bureau of Fisheries whom I was employed by for sixteen years as a writer. My article entitled “Undersea” which had been published in the Atlantic Monthly, won praise from scientists, naturalists, and literary critics, inspiring me to write my first book. Under the Sea Wind debuted in 1941 to critical acclaim in both literary and scientific circles but sales plummeted with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 1942 I began working for the Fish and Wildlife Service promoting fish as an alternative to foods in short supply because of the war. By 1948 I moved into an exclusively male domain, earning the grade of biologist, and becoming the editor-in-chief of the Information Division.
It was not an easy climb though; my close friend and associate Bob Hines once said I was an able executive with almost a man’s administrative qualities. But it was Hines who also said that my qualities of zest and humor made even the dull bureaucratic procedure a matter of quite fun. My second book The Sea Around Us written in 1950 was “a book for anyone who has looked out upon the ocean with wonder.” I won the George Westinghouse Science Writing Award for one chapter of that book entitled “The Birth of an Island.” The book itself remained on the New York Times bestseller list for eighty-one weeks. Marie Rodell decided to re-release my first book at this time and I then had two books on the best sellers list.
The success of the two books had given me the financial security my mother and I had been needing so I could finally leave the Fish and Wildlife Service to dedicate my life to writing. I moved to the coast of Maine and began working on my third book, The Edge of the Sea in 1955 which would detail life at the ocean’s shoreline. This book remained on the best sellers list for twenty-three weeks. During 1956 one of my nieces had passed away and I adopted her five year old son Roger who I had always been especially fond of.
My mother passed away one year later at the age of eighty-eight. I received a letter from Olga Owens Huckins in 1958 which inspired me to write my fourth book Silent Spring which I completed in 1962. In her letter she told me she was horrified to find birds dead and dying throughout her property. A few days earlier local agencies conducted massive, unannounced spraying of the pesticide DDT. I had long suspected the dangers posed by the use of DDT.
I researched the matter and the results were frightening and I felt the whole story needed to be put in a book. I believe it was my book that influenced John F. Kennedy to form a special government group to investigate and control the use of pesticides under the direction of the President’s Science Advisory Committee. I sold a quarter of a million copies of that book, nut not without it sparking a firestorm of public outrage which I had to endure while suffering through a catalog of illnesses. On April 14, 1964, I passed away at age fifty-six of breast cancer but I was happy to have lived long enough to receive such awards as the Schweitzer Medal of the Animal Welfare Institute, The National Wildlife Federation’s “Conservation of the Year,” and the first medal awarded to a woman by the National Audobon Society.
Even long after my death in 1980, I was awarded the highest civilian decoration in the nation, The Presidential Medal of Freedom. Biographies.