Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Silent Spring - by Rachel Carson

If I believed in reincarnation, I would have good reason to think that I was Rachel Carson in a previous life. She died about six weeks before I was born which was, in fact, on the anniversary of her birth. Both of our births are celebrated today. I recently also learned that her iconic work, Silent Spring was originally published on the same day that my sister was born in 1962. Furthermore, Carson has ties both to my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland (where she studied at Johns Hopkins University and wrote about natural history and the Chesapeake Bay for the Baltimore Sun) and also to my adopted home state of Massachusetts where she worked at the Woods Hole Biological Laboratory. 

Carson wrote for the general public, not for the scientific community. My limited scientific education did not deter me from being able to access and discuss this work, and defend it to skeptics. Anyone who wants to know more about the consequences of the overuse of pesticides will find this work accessible.

When I was once asked to read from a book that changed my life I chose the Introduction to this work - "A Fable for tomorrow" - which describes a future in which there are no birds or insects. A future in which the landscape has been decimated by the use of insecticides. This book was integral to the banning of DDT and launched the modern environmental movement.

I know from my own research about Carson that this work was meticulously researched, and that she made good use of libraries while writing it. She names two librarians in particular in her Acknowlegements.

"Every writer of a book based on many diverse facts owes much to the skill and helpfulness of librarians. I owe such a debt to many, but especially Ida K. Johnston of the Department of the Interior Library and to Thelma Robinson of the Library of the National Institutes of Health".

Happy Birthday, Rachel!

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