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Remembering Rachel Carson (video)

Alfred Eisenstaedt / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

A video tribute to the scientist and author of "Silent Spring"

More than any American outside of Teddy Roosevelt, marine biologist Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964) gave a voice and a shape to our care for the natural environment in the U.S. during the 20th century. A talented writer as well as a careful scientist, her books like “Silent Spring” and “The Sea Around Us” helped to illustrate how human activities, like the overuse of pesticides, had negative effects on ecosystems — and ultimately on humans ourselves.

“Silent Spring” alerted the public to the unforeseen dangers of chemicals like DDT, which had been seen as a miracle pesticide, but proved to be harmful to other animals as it rose up the food chain.

While publicizing and promoting the book, Carson was undergoing her own private struggle with breast cancer. She died two years after its publication, but it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that resulted in the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and a ban on DDT use in agriculture in 1972.

Since that time, the population of many bird species, like the bald eagle and peregrine falcon, have rebounded. Carson’s writings continue to inspire new generations of readers to take an interest in being responsible caretakers of the natural world.