.. n Action, took her back into the field. As part of her research, she visited the Florida Everglades, Parker River in Massachusetts, and Chincoteague Islands in the Chesapeake Bay. After the war, Carson began work on a new book that focussed on oceanography. She was now at liberty to use previously classified government research data on oceanography, which included a number of technical and scientific breakthroughs.
As part of her research, she did some undersea diving off the Florida during the summer of 1949. She battled skeptical administrators to arrange a deep-sea cruise to Georges Bank near Nova Scotia aboard the Fish and Wildlifw Service’s research vessel, the Albatross III. Entitled The Sea around Us, her book on oceanography was published on July 2, 1951. It was an unexpected success; abridged in Reader’s Digest, it was a Book-of-the-Month Club alternative selection and it remained on the New York Times bestseller list for eighty-six weeks. The book brought Carson numerous awards, including the National Book Award and the John Burroughs Medal, as well as honorary doctorates from her alma mater and Oberlin College. Despite her inherent shyness, Carsonbecame a regular on the lecture circuit.
Money was no longer the overarching concern it had been; she retired from government service and devoted her time to writing. Freed from financial burdens, Carson began work on another book, focussing this time on the intricacies of life along the shoreline. She took excursions to the mangrovecoasts of Florida and returned to one of her favorite locations, the rockyshores of Maine. She fell in love with the Maine coast, and in 1953 bought a summer home in West Southport on the shore of Sheepscot Bay. The Edge of the Sea appeared in 1955 and earned Carson two more prestigious awards, the Achievement Award of the American Association of University Women and a citation from the National Council of Women of the United States.
The book remained on the bestseller list for twenty weeks, and RKO Studios bought the rights to it. In typical Hollywood fashion, the studio sensationalized the material and ignored scientific fact. Carson corrected some of the more egregious errors but still found the film embarrassing, even after it won an Oscar as the best full-length documentary of 1953. From 1955 to 1957, Carson concentrated on smaller projects, including a telescript, Something about the Sky, for the Omnibus series. She also contributed a number of articles to popular magazines.
In July 1956, Carson published Help Your Child to Wonder in the Woman’s Home Companion. The article was based on her own real-life experiences, something rare for Carson. She intended to expand the article into a book and retell the story of her early life on her parent’s Pennsylvania farm. After her death, the essay reappeared in 1965 as the book The Sense of Wonder. In 1956, one of the nieces Carson had raised died at age 36. Marjorie left her son Roger; Carson now had to care for him in addition to her arthritic mother, who was now eighty-eight. She legally adopted Roger that same year and began looking for a suitable place to rear the child. She built a new winter home in Silver Spring, Maryland, on an uncultivated tract of land, and she began another project shortly after the home was finished.
The luxuriant setting inspired her to turn her thoughts to nature once again. Carson’s next book grew out of a long-held concern about the overuse of pesticides. She had received a letter from Olga Owens Huckins, who related how the aerial spraying of DDT had destroyed her Massachusetts bird sanctuary. Huckins asked her to petition federal authorities to investigate the widespread use of such pesticides, but Carsonthought the most effective tactic would be to write an article for a popular magazine. When her initial queries were rejected, Carson attempted to interest the well-known essayist E. B. White in the subject.
White suggested she write the article herself, in her own style, and he told her to contact William Shawn, an editor at the New Yorker. Eventually, after numerous discussions with Shawn and others, she decided to write a book instead. The international reputation Carson now enjoyed enabled her to enlist the aid of an array of experts. She consulted with biologists, chemists, entomologists, and pathologists, spending four years gathering data for her book. When Silent Spring first appeared in serial form in the New Yorker in June 1962, it drew an aggressive response from the chemical industry. Carson argued that the environmental consequences of pesticide use underscored the futility of humanity’s attempts to control nature, and she maintained that these efforts to assume control had upset nature’s delicate balance. Although the message is now largely uncontroversial, the book caused near panic in some circles, challenging the long-held belief that humans could master nature. The chemical companies, in particular, attacked both the book and its author; they questioned the data, the interpretation of the data, and the author’s scientific credentials.
One early reviewer referred to Carsonas a hysterical woman, and others continued this sexist line of attack. Some chemical companies attempted to pressure Houghton Mifflin, the book’s publisher, into suppressing the book, but these attempts failed. The general reviews were much kinder and Silent Spring soon attracted a large, concerned audience, both in America and abroad. A special CBS television broadcast, The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson, which aired on April 3, 1963, pitted Carson against a chemical company spokesman. Her cool-headed, commonsensical approach won her many fans and brought national attention to the problem of pesticide use. The book became a cultural icon and part of everyday household conversation. Carson received hundreds of invitations to speak, most of which she declined due to her deteriorating health. She did find the strength to appear before the Women’s National Press Club, the National Parks Association, and the Ribicoff Committeethe U.S.
Senate committee on environmental hazards. In 1963 Carson received numerous honors and awards, including an award from the Izaak Walton League of America, the Audubon Medal, and the Cullen Medal of the American Geographical Society. That same year, she was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She died of heart failure on April 14, 1964, at the age of fifty-six. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter posthumously awarded her the President’s Medal of Freedom.
A Rachel Carson stamp was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 1981. Science.