by Dr. Lawrence Wilson

© March 2020, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.

All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended as diagnosis, prescription, treatment or cure for any health condition.

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was a marine biologist and was one of the most influential writers and scientists in history.

The following is excerpted and edited based on the Encyclopedia of World Biographies (https://www.notablebiographies.com/Ca-Ch/Carson-Rachel.html).

Childhood And Education

Rachel Louise Carson was born May 27, 1907, in Springdale, Pennsylvania, USA. She was a rather frail, quiet child who kept to herself. Her father worked as a traveling insurance salesman and was not home much of the time.

Rachel enjoyed spending long hours learning about nature from her mother, a schoolteacher and a musician. Her mother also inspired an interest in literature. At a very young age, Rachel knew she wanted to become a writer. She published her first piece of writing at the age of 10 in a national children's magazine.

In high school, Rachel Carson was an intelligent and motivated student who impressed her teachers. In college, she studied English at the Pennsylvania College for Women in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However, she changed her major to biology during college when she discovered a love for science.

After earning her undergraduate degree, she studied creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a master's degree. She continued with postgraduate studies in marine biology at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts. This is the leading marine biology laboratory in the United States.

Biologist To Celebrated Writer

In 1936, she began a career as a marine biologist with the United States Bureau of Fisheries. This government agency was in charge of regulating and protecting the fishing industry in the United States.

Just one year later, she published a well-received essay in the national publication, The Atlantic Monthly. This led to her first book, Under the Sea Wind (1941).

She soon became editor-in-chief of the Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, a department dedicated to the conservation of wildlife. During this time, she honed her writing skills, which focused on wildlife conservation.

In 1951, The Sea around Us brought her almost instant fame. It remained at the top of the best-seller list of books for thirty-nine weeks and was translated into thirty languages. For this book, this rather shy, soft-spoken writer received the National Book Award, the Gold Medal of the New York Zoological Society, and the John Burroughs Medal.

The following year, Miss Carson left the government to undertake full-time writing and research. As a scientist and as an observant human being, the overwhelming effects of toxic pesticides upon the natural world increasingly disturbed her. She wrote at the time:

"I suppose my thinking began to be affected soon after the atom bomb science was perfected (1945). It was pleasant to believe that much of Nature was forever beyond the tampering reach of mankind: However, I have now opened my eyes and my mind. I may not like what I see, but it does no good to ignore it."

Taking On Pollution

Rachel Carson is best known for her book, Silent Spring. It brought to public awareness extensive research on the toxic effects of pesticides and insecticides that had previously been buried in very technical scientific journals.

When Silent Spring was published in 1962, the excellent writing style and painstaking scientific reporting it contained produced an impact equaled by few authors ever in history. In fact, she aroused the entire world to the dangers of toxic metals and toxic chemicals.

She checked her facts very carefully. Whenever possible, she actually corresponded with the authors of the technical papers she reported on.

She gave voice to the concerns of thousands of brilliant scientists of the mid-twentieth century. They knew the effects of toxic metals and chemicals on the plants, animals and human beings of the earth. However, many were either unwilling or unable to come forward and speak out. Rachel Carson’s courage to speak the truth about the damage occurring due to poison chemicals was one of her greatest strengths.

In the book, she traced the course of chlorinated hydrocarbons, a harmful substance found in some pesticides, through the energy cycles of the soil and food chain of the birds and other wildlife.

She revealed the truth that these deadly chemicals contaminate the earth and remain for years in the water and in the soil. They also build up in the human body, causing cancer and many other diseases in human populations.

Because of these poisons in the insects, birds do not reproduce and many die. In fact, the poisons disrupt the entire food chain and ecosystem. She also revealed the truth that insect species that were the targets for these poisons were developing immunity or resistance to pesticides. This caused people to use ever increasing amounts of them.

She proposed strict limitations on spraying programs and an accelerated research effort to develop natural alternatives to control harmful insects and other pests. She added much scientific data to the rationale for organic, sustainable and regenerative agriculture and the need for detoxification programs for human and animal healing.

Not surprisingly, the Rogue-contolled pesticide industry reacted with a massive campaign to damage the reputation of Carson and her findings. Indeed, many articles and even books tried to discredit her work. Still today, some people refer to her as an “environmental kook or whacko”. The truth is quite the opposite.

While some people exaggerate environmental problems and propose insane solutions that would take us back to the stone age, she was not on of them. She was a practical, tough-minded scientist who blew the whistle on a very damaging industry that continues to sicken planet earth with their toxic products.

Today, toxic metals and toxic chemicals remain the worst environmental problems on earth. Those who seek to control us want to distract us from this problem with their phony “crises” such as climate change.

After publication of her famous book, this gentle lady politely but firmly continued to educate the public about the horror of toxic metals and toxic chemicals. She died young at age 57. She wrote:

The control of nature is a phrase conceived in arrogance ... It is our alarming misfortune that so primitive a science has armed itself with the most modern and terrible weapons ... In turning them against the insects, it has also turned them against the earth.”

"I think we are challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves."

For More Information

Graham, Frank. Since Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1970.

Lear, Linda. Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. New York: H. Holt, 1997.

Lear, Linda, ed. Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998.

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