One of the most influential books of the 20th century is “Silent Spring,” written by the American biologist Rachel Carson. The book is considered the starting point of the global environmental movement and is the main work of an impressive woman, who has felt equally comfortable with the microscope and typewriter.

Who was Rachel Carson?

Carson was born 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania into a family living in close contact with nature. Especially her mother teaches Rachel to treat nature with respect, but also to study and analyze it. Her early life is shaped not only by the love of nature, but also by the love of writing. So it is the literature that Rachel Carson initially turns to before she discovers marine biology and makes it part of her life. Nevertheless, biology and writing will accompany her for a lifetime.

First works

Rachel Carson has to abandon her university studier to help to support her family and to care for her aging mother. In 1936, she gets hired as a junior aquatic biologist by the Bureau of Fisheries. Even there, she keeps on writing and publishing.In a short time she becomes the spokesperson of her department. As such, she publishes articles in major magazines and arouses the interest of major publishers who are fascinated by their writing, her curiosity, her astonishment at nature and its inhabitants. Carson is to empathize with nature to the extent that the reader believes that being a part of it suddenly makes him or her play the role of animals or plants. This gift brings Rachel Carson first successes. For example, her second work titled “The sea around us” is no less than 86 weeks in the New York Times bestseller list.

“Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson

The real breakthrough, however, experiences Rachel in the early 1960s with her most well-known book on the market: “Silent spring”. In this book, Carson examines the consequences of using pesticides, which were back in the 60s used without regard for losses and in large quantities – with disastrous consequences for the ecological balance. Rachel Carson works on this book for ten years, it’s published in 1962, and the reactions to it are fierce.

On the one hand, the author gets attacked by the chemical corporations as much as by the American government, on the other hand, “Silent Spring” triggers a public discussion about the use of pesticides, but above all about DDT. With success: DDT is completely forbidden, the pesticide use regulated. Rachel Carson however does not see the success anymore. On April 14, 1964, she dies of breast cancer – at only56 years. Before that, although already seriously affected by her illness, she testifies to the scientific commission called in life by President John F. Kennedy in order to investigate issues of environmental protection and pesticide use.

In 1980 Carson is posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, for her services to environmental protection.

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