In recognition of World Environmental Day and World Oceans Day this week, on June 5 and June 8 respectively, we are honoring Rachel Carson as this week’s STEM Like Me. Rachel Carson attended the Pennsylvania College for Women from 1925-1929, where she originally studied English before switching her major to biology. She then spent the summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory before attending John Hopkins in 1929 to study zoology and genetics. After receiving her master’s degree in zoology, Carson had to leave school instead of continuing for her doctorate to help support her family during the Great Depression. She began to work temporarily for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, where she wrote for a series of educational broadcasts, Romance Under the Waters. In 1936, Carson became the second woman to become a full-time employee of the Bureau of Fisheries as a junior aquatic biologist. Carson’s work led to her writing for many newspapers and journals, and she wrote many books throughout her career as well. The publication of The Sea Around Us, a life history of the ocean, earned Carson two honorary doctorates. After the publication of this book, she left the Bureau of Fisheries, now known as the Bureau of Fish and Wildlife Service, to pursue research and writing.
One of her other great accomplishments include the publication of Silent Spring, a warning about dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and other pesticides. Her book heavily influenced governments to ban or restrict the use of DDT and similar pesticides and chemicals. The publication of this work is also helped launch the environmental movement. Carson passed away in 1964 after fighting breast cancer. Posthumously, Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
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