Today, Google is celebrating influential environmentalist Rachel Louise Carson, whose 1962 book Silent Spring is credited with exposing everyday Americans to the various environmental problems facing the country, and thus sparking the modern day environmental movement. Her work played a huge part in the ban of harmful pesticides like DDT, as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Carson began her career as a marine biologist and nature writer. She won a National Book Award in 1952 for her book The Sea Around Us, the second book in her “sea trilogy” that gained her fame in her early career. The preceding book Under the Sea Wind and its follow-up The Edge of the Sea were both popular, but nowhere near as popular as The Sea Around Us, which sold over 250,000 copies in the year of its publication.
In the late 1950s, Carson became interested with the effects of pesticides on the environment, partly due to a letter published in the The Boston Herald that discussed the possible effects of aerial DDT spraying on local bird populations.
A few years later, Carson would complete Silent Spring, widely thought of as one of the most important texts in the modern environmental movement. In Silent Spring, Carson argued that “pesticides” should really be called “biocides,” because they were in effect harming much more than the pests they were intended to.
Not only did she call out pesticides, but she pointed a finger at various chemical companies, claiming that they were guilty of spreading misinformation to the public. Carson also suggested that humans were currently suffering from the poisons.
DDT was one of Carson’s main targets in Silent Spring, and it was her book that eventually led to its ban. Silent Spring never called for the ban of all pesticides, but instead a more careful use and closer monitoring because they were no doubt affecting the environment. Even so, Silent Spring received a lot of blowback from the chemical industry. Most scientists who reviewed her work threw her their support, however. In some circles, Carson and her most famous work is still controversial to this day.
Just a couple of years after the publication of Silent Spring, Carson died of a heart attack after a long battle with breast cancer. President Jimmy Carter posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom–the highest civilian award in the United States.
Google honors her with a Doodle on what would be her 107th birthday.
Images via Google, Wikimedia Commons