Biologist Rachel Louise Carson began her career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but achieved fame and social influence with publication of such popular books as The Sea Around Us (1951) and Silent Spring (1962).

Photograph courtesy the Smithsonian Institution
  • On February 3, 1958, Rachel Carson wrote a letter to E.B. White at The New Yorker, requesting him to write a book about environmental issues. Carson had worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an aquatic biologist and editor of all publications created by the agency. Carson was concerned about the increased use of pesticides, especially DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), and their impacts on aquatic life. White responded to Carson by encouraging her to write her own book on the subject. She did. The result was Silent Spring, published in 1962, which became an extremely important, influential, and controversial book. 
    Silent Spring is generally credited with beginning the modern environmental movement. The book made people more aware of how human activities, especially agricultural practices, impact the environment in very small but significant ways. Carson did not argue to ban pesticides, but instead wanted more research so the chemicals could be used more effectively and safely. Carson’s book also prompted the federal government to pass laws to regulate air and water pollution
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    agricultural practice Noun

    method used to harvest crops or care for livestock.

    aquatic Adjective

    having to do with water.

    ban Verb

    to prohibit, or not allow.

    biologist Noun

    scientist who studies living organisms.

    DDT Noun

    (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) toxic chemical used as an insecticide but illegal for most uses in the U.S. since 1972.

    environment Noun

    conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

    federal Adjective

    having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    pesticide Noun

    natural or manufactured substance used to kill organisms that threaten agriculture or are undesirable. Pesticides can be fungicides (which kill harmful fungi), insecticides (which kill harmful insects), herbicides (which kill harmful plants), or rodenticides (which kill harmful rodents.)

    pollution Noun

    introduction of harmful materials into the environment.

    Encyclopedic Entry: pollution
    prompt Adjective

    on time or quickly.

    regulate Verb

    to determine and administer a set of rules for an activity.

    significant Adjective

    important or impressive.