Telling Earth’s Story

The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson, 1944 – Author, editor and aquatic biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Source: NCTC Archives Museum

Rachel Carson was a marine biologist, writer, and conservationist, remembered by many as one of the most influential environmental authors of the twentieth century. Carson played a pivotal role in shaping how we understand our relationship to the natural world, and without her contributions, much of the progress seen by today’s environmental movement wouldn’t have been made.

Born in Springdale, Pennsylvania in 1907, Rachel Carson started her life with an innate knack for literature and exploration. She would roam through her family’s 65 acre farm, reading and writing stories about the great outdoors, particularly the ocean. Her love for the natural world would continue on into highschool and college—where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in biology.

After earning a master’s degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1928, Rachel went on to work for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (now called the US Fish and Wildlife Service) in Washington, DC. Here she wrote scripts for a weekly educational broadcast called Romance Under the Waters. Her work on this series was so successful that, in 1936, she became the second full-time female biologist to ever be hired by the Bureau.

Carson continued to write articles for publications around the state, including The Baltimore Sun and The Atlantic. Her talents were soon recognized by publishers, and in 1941 she released Under the Sea Wind—a gripping account of the many interactions between species living in the open seas. This, along with her second novel The Sea Around Us, went on to become international bestsellers, cementing her place as an authoritative voice on sea life and science at large.  

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s seminal work Silent Spring was published. The novel, which spoke about the harmful effects pesticides like DDT have on the environment, helped shape the mindset of the public and environmental professionals around the world. Her ability to articulate the depth of these pesticides’ negative impact on birds of prey was groundbreaking—and without a doubt, we are still seeing the benefits of her work today. 

We honor Rachel Carson’s environmental advocacy through our work at The Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center, where our programming serves to educate visitors on the profound importance birds of prey play in our environment. 

From books and essays to articles and stories, all of Rachel Carson’s work helped wake up a generation to the impact that human life can—and does—have on our ecosystems. Her writing helped highlight just how interconnected the natural world is, and how dependent humanity is on those connections. Over the course of her life, Carson left behind a rich legacy of insightful and inspiring advice, such as the following:


“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand, there is the story of the earth.”


Today we thank Rachel Carson for telling those important stories.