A marine biologist wrote ‘Silent Spring’

shoreline w text

Rachel Carson is, of course, best known for writing the book Silent Spring, which described the effects of pesticides on the environment and helped launch the environmental movement. But before publishing Silent Spring in 1962, Carson spent much of her life studying and writing about the ocean!

Carson majored in biology at the Pennsylvania College for Women, studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and received a masters degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University. Carson planned on completing a PhD, but was forced to leave her studies in 1935 because she needed to help support her family after her father’s death. She then began working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, writing radio shows and pamphlets to inform the public about conservation of natural resources.

Rachel Carson with Bob Hines conducting marine biology research in Florida in 1952. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Rachel Carson with Bob Hines conducting marine biology research in Florida in 1952. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Carson left the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1952 to pursue writing full-time. By this time she had already published her first two books, Under the Sea Wind (1941) and The Sea Around Us (1951). In 1955 Carson published her third book about the ocean, The Edge of the Sea.

Carson book covers

The Edge of the Sea is my personal favorite of Carson’s “sea-trilogy.” The book describes the organisms living on the eastern coast on rocky shores, sandy beaches, and coral reefs and is accompanied by beautifully detailed scientific drawings by Bob Hines. Carson conveys her deep love for the ocean and her infectious curiosity in its inhabitants while describing the natural history of the shore. As Sue Hubbell says in the introduction of the 1998 edition, “We feel as though a well-informed friend has taken us by the hand as we walk along the ocean’s rim and explained all the bits of the world that we see, giving us an understanding of how they fit together and pointing out some other bits that we failed to notice before but always will notice now that we know about them.”

So, if you’re looking for a book to read on the beach this summer, grab a copy of The Edge of the Sea. You will be both educated and entertained!

Left: Carson in a tidepool in Maine (1955). (Photo: Lear/Carson Archives via http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org) Right: Illustration of Busycon contrarium by Bob Hines for "The Edge of the Sea." (Image: brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/)
Left: Carson in a tidepool in Maine (1955). (Photo: Lear/Carson Archives via nationalhumanitiescenter.org)
Right: Illustration of Busycon contrarium by Bob Hines for “The Edge of the Sea.” (Image: brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/)
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