10 Things You Should Know About Rachel Carson


Her Prose was "Too Good for the Government"

Rachel Carson Dorothy Freeman
Rachel Carson's boss at the Fish & Wildlife Service urged her to submit her essay, "The World of Waters," to the Atlantic Monthly because he considered it too good for government pamphlets. CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Government pamphlets couldn't contain Carson's amazing prose for very long. When, at length, she submitted an 11-page essay about marine life called "The World of Waters," her boss told her it was too good for government publication. Instead, he urged her to try finding a magazine that would take it.

She reached out to the editor of the Atlantic Monthly who was happy to publish it. "Undersea" appeared in the magazine in 1937 and is considered the piece that launched her career as a naturalist. Encouraged by the success, Carson began a book, which she wrote on the back of Fish & Wildlife Service stationary. It was published as "Under the Sea-Wind" and the timing couldn't have been worse. A few weeks later came the bombing of Pearl Harbor and suddenly nobody had any time for poetic investigations of marine life.

Maybe that's why The Atlantic wasn't interested in her second piece, "The Sea Around Us." So Carson submitted the work to The New Yorker. The magazine's legendary editor, Wallace Shawn, loved Carson's writing and immediately agreed to serialize the piece in 1951. When it came out in book form, "The Sea Around Us" spent 86 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List and won the National Book Award [source: Lepore].