Carson's landmark book documented the dramatic impact of human-produced chemicals on the natural world and is widely credited with launching the modern-day environmental movement.
Silent Spring detailed the previously unexamined and virtually unregulated practice of dumping, spraying, dusting, and otherwise distributing harmful chemicals into the environment. (Learn more about water pollution.)
The chemical industry, government scientists, and much of the media attacked Carson as hysterical, often invoking her gender. They challenged her facts and competency, but her book became a bestseller.
Reviewing Silent Spring in 1962, Time magazine cast doubt on its conclusions. Decades later, the magazine named Carson one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. (See " 'Silent Spring' 50 Years On, an Alarm Still Reverberating.")
Books on the Side
Carson grew up in the rural river town of Springdale, Pennsylvania, and inherited a lifelong love of nature from her mother, according to the Rachel Carson website.
She received a masters in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932 and eventually became the editor in chief of publications for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, writing articles and books on the side.
After World World II she became disturbed by the growing use of pesticides and wanted to warn the public about their dangers. (See "For the Birds: Remembering Rachel Carson.")
Carson testified before the U.S. Congress in 1963, calling for new policies to protect human health and the environment. She died of cancer the following year, at age 56.