Rachel Louise Carson: Google Doodle commemorates author whose 'Silent Spring' led to pesticides ban

 

Google has continued its recent run of Doodles celebrating eminent female scientists with an image to mark the 107th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Carson.

Carson, who was born in Pennsylvania on 27 May 1907, trained and worked as a marine biologist, but she is best know for Silent Spring, the book that is widely credited with launching the modern global environmental movement.

The 1962 book focused on the impact of synthetic pesticides on the environment - with the title referring to the absence of birdsong across swathes of agricultural landscape following the widespread introduction of pesticides and other intensive farming practices.

The search engine's image shows Carson in the field, with binoculars, rucksack and notebook, surrounded by just the type of thriving ecosystem she warned the world - accurately, as it turned out - it risked losing. Animals include a seal, a turtle and crab, while birds depicted include a pelican, a tern and a heron.

When it was published, Silent Spring sparked a public outcry, bringing to widespread attention the effects of chemicals both on the ecosystem and on human health.

Although her research was attacked by chemical companies, a decade after her book was published, and years after her death, it led to a nationwide ban of DDT, a colourless and crystalline organochloride with insecticidal properties, and other pesticides. 

Silent Spring demonstrated that these pesticides could cause cancer and that their agricultural use was a threat to wildlife, particularly to birds.

A worldwide ban on DDT's agricultural use was formalised under the Stockholm Convention, but its limited use in disease vector control continues to this day and remains controversial.

Carson began her career as a marine biologist and in the 1950s she became a full-time writer, leaving her legacy embodied in books that explore the environment inside out.

Her other writings, besides Silent Spring, are also credited with advancing the global environment movement.

 

She won a National Book Award for the first book of her bestselling trilogy, in which she explores the ocean life, The Sea Around Us, published in 1951. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the reissued version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also successful.

Carson is also credited with being an inspiration for the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency, a US government agency focused on protecting human health and the environment.

Carson died on 14 April 1964, aged 56, of a heart attack, having had breast cancer for many years.

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