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Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) won no great prizes and led no crusades. She attracted considerable attention because she introduced readers to mysterious worlds, combining the eye of a scientist and the sensibility of a poet with a clear commitment to nature's scheme of things. Carson was a memorable teacher who found herself at the center of the biggest controversy in the history of the conservation movement with the publication of her book, Silent Spring, which alerted citizens throughout the world to the subtle dangers of "An Age of Poisons".

Carson's writings stressed three philosophical concepts: a belief that people have a right to live unassaulted by toxins; a belief that maintaining a diverse web of life is the key to ecological survival; and a belief that environmental preservation is a moral human instinct. Today Love Canal, three Mile Island, Bhopal, Chernobyl, and Exxon Valdez remind us of her concern that a fascination with chemicals must continuously be tempered with some wisdom in their use.

April 2002 marked the 40th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson's groundbreaking book, Silent Spring.


Books by Rachel Carson

Carson, Rachel
Silent Spring
QH545.P4 C38
In his introduction to the twenty-fifth anniversary edition, Vice-president Al Gore writes that he read this book at his mother's insistence and discussed it at the family dinner table. He states that it had a "profound impact" on him because it showed an eloquent concern for the human stakes in a chemically uncorrupted nature. Carson posed the question in her bestseller, "Why should a poison dust or spray, however greatly it may advantage a grower or a housewife in a private project, enjoy immunity while there is any reason to suspect that it may endanger the public health or damage the natural scene?" She pressed for a research program to enable men to use pesticides safely and effectively, reducing their use to a minimum by the development of alternate means to keep insects in check.
Carson, Rachel
Under the Sea Wind
This classic in nature writing provides an education in marine science that features Rynchops, a black skimmer; Scomber, a mackerel; and Auguilla, and eel. Through their lives Carson details the workings of currents, migration, life cycles, and general survival while these creatures search for food and try to avoid becoming it.
Carson, Rachel
The Sea Around Us
551.46 C23
Modern geological theories about how the earth acquired the oceans are employed by the author to describe the world's last great frontier of mystery and darkness, the great oceans. A list of reading materials is included.
Carson, Rachel
The Edge of the Sea
The ground bounded by the rise and fall of the tides is described by Carson in beautiful prose that appeals to the mind's eye as well as the physical eye. This part of the world is filled with unfamiliar plant and animal forms, including the tiny periwinkle with its 3500 teeth, and the sea pansy, which survives by turning itself into a colony.
Freeman, Martha (ed.)
Always Rachel: the Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952-1964
QH31.C33 A4 1995x
These lightly edited letters by Freeman's granddaughter shed light on Carson's creative process, family burdens, and the devastating illnesses that interrupted her work on Silent Spring. Readers interested in biography, women's studies, and the history of the environmental movement as well as nature writing will find this correspondence dotted with vivid observations of the natural world and a perceptive commentary on friendship, family, fame, and life itself.
Lear, Linda (ed.)
Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson
QH81.C3546 1998
This collection of essays, includes "Lost Woods" which accompanied a 1956 television program that warned of the hazards to island ecosystems and analyzed cloud formations. The most scientific and politically powerful piece in the collection is Carson's speech attacking the detractors of "Silent Spring", delivered shortly before her death. This is required reading for corporate managers in environmentally sensitive industries, environmental scientists, and the general public interested in environmentalism.

Books about Rachel Carson

Additional books about Rachel Carson can be found in our online catalog by searching for Carson, Rachel as Subject.

Courage for the Earth: Writers, Scientists, and Activists Celebrate the Life and Writing of Rachel Carson
QH545.P4 C684 2007
In this volume edited by Peter Matthiessen, todayís foremost scientists and writers give compelling evidence that Carsonís transformative insights -- her courage for the earth -- are giving a new generation of activists the inspiration they need to move consumers, industry, and government to action.
Lear, Linda
Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature
QH31.C33 L43 1997
Linda Lear gives a compelling portrait of this heroic woman, illuminating the origin of her connection with nature and of her determination to save what she loved.
Levine, Ellen
Rachel Carson: a Twentieth-Century Life
PENNA QH31.C33 L48 2007x
Discusses author and marine biologist Rachel Carson's efforts to protect the environment, from her childhood nature outings through the impact of her 1962 book, "Silent Spring."
Lytle, Mark H.
The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement
QH31.C33 L98 2007
Lytle offers a compact life of Carson, illuminating the road that led to Silent Spring. Lytle explores the evolution of Carson's ideas about nature, her love for the sea, her career as a biologist, and above all her emergence as a writer of extraordinary moral and ecological vision.
Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge
QH31.C33 R33 2008
Editors Lisa H. Sideris and Kathleen Dean Moore bring together seventeen writers, activists, and scholars from a range of disciplines to uncover the many sides of Rachel Carson and to look at her work prior to Silent Spring.


Rachel Carson's Silent Spring
(DVD) QH545.P4 R285 2007x
This WGBH Boston film documents writer and biologist Rachel Carson's efforts to inform the world of the hazardous effects of pesticides on the environment.

Pittsburgh Region

Rachel Carson was a native daughter of Southwestern Pennsylvania, having been born in Springdale. Had Pittsburgh been on the Atlantic Coast, she probably never would have left...

  • The Rachel Carson Institute
    At Chatham College in Pittsburgh. Rachel Carson attended Chatham when it was called the Pennsylvania College for Women.
  • Rachel Carson Homestead
    Rachel Carson was born May 27, 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania, located just north of Pittsburgh.

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