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women of science
Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson (1907 - 1962)

Rachel Carson, scientist and author, is remembered mainly for her last work, Silent Spring, published in 1962, two years before her death. This controversial work, which examined in alarming detail the environmental damage caused by the widespread use of chemical pesticides, led to a greater public awareness of the need to preserve and maintain our weakened environment. Her work also helped to bring about increased state and national regulation of the manufacture, use, and disposal of chemical pesticides.

However, her previous literary works all dealt with the far different subject of the sea: Under the Sea Wind, The Sea Around Us, and The Edge of the Sea. Her fascination for the sea began in 1929 when, as a graduate of Pennsylvania College for Women, she first came to the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole as a Beginning Investigator. Once here, she changed her field of study from that of the cranial nerves of reptiles to that of marine biology. She later returned to the MBL in 1932 as a graduate student from Johns Hopkins, where she earned her M.A. in biology. While in Woods Hole, she was also affiliated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was a member of the MBL Corporation from 1952 to the year of her death.

In interviews with The Enterprise, she spoke of the importance of Woods Hole in her writing of The Sea Around Us:

Woods Hole is a wonderful place to come to for research. There are biologists here from all over the country. If you want to talk to them you just come here in the summer instead of traveling all around the country to find them in the winter.

Under the Sea Wind, she remarked, was also greatly influenced by her days in Woods Hole:

In writing (the chapter about the harbor), I actually had in mind a slightly modified version of the harbor at Woods Hole. In fact, I wrote the chapter there and used to stand on the Fisheries dock and watch the schools of young mackerel moving up and down along the stone breakwater, with squids and other predators often darting among them

Woods Hole and its surrounding waters left their imprint on Rachel Carson, an imprint that found its eloquent expression in her writings.