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Google’s Doodle Honors Rachel Carson

May 27 is the 107th birthday of the author of "Silent Spring.”

Amy K. Hooper

Follow Amy K. Hooper on Twitter at @HooperI5Pub

Learn a little more about Rachel Carson, author of "Silent Spring" in this YouTube video.

If you happened to visit Google’s homepage on May 27, you saw a blue-and-white birthday tribute to Rachel Carson, the author of "Silent Spring,” published in 1962. She is the scientist often credited with galvanizing public awareness of environmental issues, particularly the effects of the pesticide DDT on nature.

Google Doodle Honors Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson Doodle by Google

Born in 1907, Carson died only two years after the debut of "Silent Spring,” but her work as a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service scientist continues to affect millions of people. Today, her influence and her 107th birthday are noted online and elsewhere. This brief roundup can bring you up to speed!

In "The Washington Post”:

After the release of "Silent Spring” — which, in imagining a chemical-scarred world without birdsong, challenged agricultural practices and urged focusing on the natural world — Life magazine would call her "a gentle storm center.” CBS aired its report "The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson” in the spring of 1963 — the same year she would testify before Congress about pesticide use. In the CBS report, Carson said: "It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks that the insect controllers calculate. The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts.”

The Post’s article includes two short, informative videos, too. One of them comes from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, where Carson began working in 1935.

An earlier article about Carson in The New York Times is making the social-media rounds today and provides other details about her life, work and modern influence.

Saint Rachel, "the nun of nature,” as she is called, is frequently invoked in the name of one environmental cause or another, but few know much about her life and work. "People think she came out of nowhere to deliver this Jeremiad of ‘Silent Spring,’ but she had three massive best sellers about the sea before that,” McKibben says. "She was Jacques Cousteau before there was Jacques Cousteau.”

Silent Spring Book Cover
Courtesy Houghton Mifflin
According to publisher Houghton Mifflin, "Silent Spring alerted a large audience to the environmental and human dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides, spurring revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water."

The nun of nature’s stance about pesticides generated disagreement and detractors, including those who blame her book for the 1972 U.S. ban on DDT, which kills mosquitoes, and the spread of malaria, which is carried by mosquitoes. One of Carson’s biographers, Linda Lear, says in her defense:

"Carson was never against the use of DDT … She was against the misuse of DDT.”

In "The Guardian:”

Carson's work in awakening the world to the horrors of pesticides is cited by scientists as a major factor in bringing back some bird species from the brink of extinction, particularly, the bald eagle – US's national bird. Peregrine falcon is another bird of prey that has made a comeback largely due to the ban on DDT.

And in "The Christian Science Monitor”:

Though chemical companies and many who had previously trusted federal scientists’ judgments decried her as an "alarmist” and "fanatic,” her message and extensive research quickly took hold. The 1962 book, which ended up on the bestseller list for nearly three years, and Carson’s advocacy to Congress and others sparked the modern day environmentalist movement, contributed to a nearly worldwide ban of DDT, and played a part in the inception of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Despite these improvements, some of these contributions remain controversial today, including the widespread ban on DDT, which she didn’t anticipate would be carried out with such force.


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Posted: May 27, 2014, 2:00 p.m. PDT

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