her way to college, Rachel Carson not only graduated with a masters in zoology
and became the second woman hired by the US Bureau of Fisheries, but she also wrote
many books, which greatly impacted the United States. Born into an impoverished
family, Rachel Carson overcame many obstacles while in college, and became one
of the 100 most influential people of the 1900s.
Rachel Carson, born on May 27, 1907,
found her love for nature and animals at an early age while exploring her
family’s 64-acre farm in Springdale, Pennsylvania (Michal; Souder). She always
loved exploring the woods by her house with her dog, Candy, and noticed all the
bugs and different types of trees with her eye for detail (Hustard). Because
Rachel’s dad, Robert Carson, traveled as an insurance salesman, he often left
home, leaving Maria, Rachel’s mom, alone with her four kids (Souder). Her
family had a very low income causing them to have no electricity or plumbing
(Souder). While growing up, she loved reading and writing and became a
published author by ten years old (Michal). Throughout high school, Carson had
to work at a laboratory in Massachusetts and at Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution to help fund college (Hustard, Powel).
In 1925, she began attending the
Pennsylvania College for Woman studying English but later changed to study
biology (Michal, Powel). Graduating in 1929 with high honors, she received her
bachelor’s degree in biology (Powel, Gilbert, Michal). Longing to learn more,
Rachel began studying at the oceanographic institute of John Hopkins
University, where she received her master’s in zoology in 1932 (Michal).
Although Rachel wanted to pursue a doctorate degree, she had to take care of her
mother and two orphaned nieces and continued to struggle financially (Michal,
After searching for a long time, she
finally found a job teaching zoology at the University of Maryland (Powel).
Leaving her teaching career, she scored higher than all other applicants and
became the second woman hired by the US Bureau of Fisheries in 1936 (Michal).
Carson began as a marine biologist until 1937 when she became a junior aquatic
biologist (Michal, Hustard). After the promotion to editor-in-chief, Carson
left this organization in 1952 to pursue her writing career (Powel).
Although Carson faced much rejection, she published
her first book, Under the Sea Wind,
in 1941 which explained the animal life on the East Coast (Powel). Soon after
the publication, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor taking away from the focus on her
book so she only received some admiration for presenting scientific facts in an
understandable way (Hustard). Because Carson longed for people to understand
the wonders of the ocean, she wrote and published a second book, The Sea Around Us, in 1951 which
eventually became a movie as well (Powel). This book sparked wonder in the mind
of all who read it, causing it to become the best-seller for 86 weeks and
allowed her to quit her job (Gilbert, Hustard). A letter from one of Carson’s
friends in 1958 opened Carson’s eyes to the effects of spraying pesticides on
plants (Powel). Her friend studied the forest and noticed much of the wildlife
and birds began dying very rapidly, and after many tests, it became evident
that the pesticides affected the animals in a negative way (Powel). Carson
decided she needed to do something about the problem, so she began to write
another book and before the book became published, people already bought 4,000 copies
(Hustard). In 1958, Carson spoke to editors about publishing a story in the newspaper
before writing a book, but they pushed back the deadline in order for Carson to
better prepare (Powel). On December 1, 1958, Carson’s mom died a sudden death,
so the deadline changed again (Powel). Determined, Carson continued
researching, but became ill in the early 1960’s from pneumonia, and had to have
surgery to remove two tumors (Powel). In 1961, the doctor diagnosed Carson with
cancer and began radiation which caused her body to become weak, but afraid
they would cancel her book, kept her well-being a secret (Powel). After four
years of strenuous research and writing, she finally published, Silent Spring, which explained the
effect of poison and how to more cautiously use them (Powel). John F. Kennedy,
a fan of Carson’s writing, read all of her books and created an assembly of
numerous scientists to further study Carson’s theory (Powel). Although
thousands of people greatly enjoyed her writings, many chemical companies spent
thousands of dollars trying to discredit her work, but failed (Powel, Michal).
On June 4, 1963, Carson spoke in the courts to testify her reason for writing
the books and replied to the attacks by saying that she began this campaign
with only the public and environment in mind, not a specific company (Powel).
Through the trials, Carson remained strong, and won a
national book award, national science writing award, and a Guggeheim grant
(Michal). Overcome by cancer, Carson died on April 14, 1964 and did not get the
privilege to see her life’s goal accomplished- the banning of strong pesticides
(Gilbert, Hustard). Awarded the Presidential medal of honor after she died and
fondly thought of as an early environmental activist, Carson changed the United
States and many other countries for the good of the people (Michal,
Biography.com editors). Carson produced the largest influence to the America
and became known as one of the most insignificant women of the 1900s (Hustard).
Because Carson’s life impacted the country in such a strong way, the president
held her funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. (Hustard). Rachel
Carson’s impact on the world still shows today as researchers continue to find
more causes for the death of the environment and the animal in it.