The famous environmental activist, marine biologist, and
author of the landmark book Silent Spring,
Rachel Carson, passed away on this day in 1964.
Author and environmental activist, Rachel Carson, circa the 1950s (x).
Rachel was born on May 27, 1907 in Springsdale,
Pennsylvania. Her parents owned a farm close to the Allegheny River where she
spent most her childhood exploring the outdoors and developing a love of
nature. She started writing short stories, mostly about animals, as a young
girl. She would eventually publish her first short story at the young age of ten! Rachel’s love
of animals and nature would follow her for the rest of her life; she graduated
from Pennsylvania College for Women with a degree in biology in 1929 and then
went on to receive her master’s degree in zoology from John Hopkins University.
After school, she became an aquatic biologist as the second woman in
American history to be employed by the Bureau of Fisheries.
In 1951, Rachel was thrust into the spotlight with the
publication of her novel The Sea Around
Us. Rachel’s years with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries equipped her to write both
a poetic and an education novel about the history of the sea, which would go on
to remain on the New York Times Best Seller List for 86 weeks. It was on this
career high that Rachel decided to move to Southport Island, Maine with her
mother, where she would meet the love of her life, Dorothy Freeman. Dorothy was
a local housewife who spent her summers in Southport with her husband, and in
1953, she wrote a letter to Rachel to welcome her to the small island
community. The two eventually became attached at the hip; Rachel and Dorothy would spend summers together
and continue a lively correspondence with each other for the rest of their
lives. You can read more about their relationship and even a few of their
letters over at Brain Pickings or in the book Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman.
Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman enjoying their shared love of nature together in Southport Island, Maine (x).
The book that would earn Rachel her place in history
textbooks, Silent Spring, was
published in September of 1962. Silent
Spring exposed the environmental problems caused by synthetic pesticides and
the misconduct of the chemical companies who deployed them. The ripples of environmental
conservatism caused by Silent Spring led
to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and in 2012,
Silent Spring was designated as a
National Historic Chemical Landmark. Rachel passed away just two years after
the book’s publication on April 14, 1964 due to breast cancer complications. It was Dorothy who released Rachel’s ashes into the sea at Southport Island, in a place where they would often spend the days together "watching life go by, with the sky and the sea between them.”