10 Things You Should Know About Rachel Carson


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She Hid Her Breast Cancer From the Public
After the release of 'Silent Spring,' Rachel Carson was interviewed in April 1963 at her home by CBS reporter Eric Sevareid about the book's examination of pesticide use. Carson was wearing a wig and hiding the fact that she had breast cancer. CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

It was no surprise that after Carson published "Silent Spring," she came under attack by the chemical industry, and some in the government even accused her of being an "alarmist." But she remained strong and spirited and continued to speak out against what she believed was a threat to the natural world.

What Carson was private about, however, was she was also fighting another battle —breast cancer. And she was terrified to let the public know. When she testified before Congress soon after publication of "Silent Spring," she was wearing a wig to hide her balding head, a side effect of radiation treatments.

Just two years after "Silent Spring," she died of metastatic breast cancer. She was just 57 [source: silentspring.org]. She had worked through incredible pain and illness to complete her last book and her partner Dorothy Freeman would later maintain that "Silent Spring" had killed her.

But before she died, Carson wrote that she was thinking about her next book — it was going to be about the mysterious rise in sea levels. If only she had lived. Given the extraordinary influence of "Silent Spring," it's hard not to think that Rachel Carson might have been able to publicize the dangers of climate change decades before it became a global concern.

Author's Note: 10 Things You Should Know About Rachel Carson

Growing up, I often heard mention of Rachel Carson and her seminal work, "Silent Spring," but I had no idea that long before she published that book, she was famous for her writings about the ocean. And I think it truly heroic that she was able to write with such force and clarity while undergoing the treatments and illnesses associated with terminal cancer. As one commentator noted, if she could do that, none of us has any excuse for putting off what needs to be done.

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Sources

  • EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). "DDT – A Brief History and Status." Aug. 11, 2017. (May 1, 2018) https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/ddt-brief-history-and-status
  • Johnson, Caitlin. "The Legacy of 'Silent Spring'." CBS Sunday Morning. April 22, 2007. (April 31, 2018) https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-legacy-of-silent-spring/
  • Grossman, Elizabeth. "Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' Turns 50." The Atlantic. June 25, 2012. (April 31, 2018) https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/06/rachel-carsons-silent-spring-turns-50/258926/
  • Lepore, Jill. "The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson." The New Yorker. March 26, 2018. (April 31, 2018) https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/26/the-right-way-to-remember-rachel-carson
  • Michals, Debra. "Rachel Carson (1907-1964)." NWHM (National Women's History Museum). 2015. (May 1, 2018) https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/rachel-carson
  • Rachelcarson.org. "In Memoriam: Mary Scott Skinker." (April 30, 2018) http://www.rachelcarson.org/mMarySkinker.aspx
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "Rachel Carson, National Wildlife Refuge, Maine. Biography" Feb. 5, 2013. (May 7, 2018) https://www.fws.gov/refuge/rachel_carson/about/rachelcarson.html
  • Weeks, Linton. "The CBS Report That Helped 'Silent Spring' Be Heard." March 21, 2007. (April 31, 2018) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/20/AR2007032001762.html

Adelbert Ames

Adelbert Ames is a famous American biologist. Learn more about Adelbert Ames at HowStuffWorks.


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