Segments in this Video

Introduction: Rachel Carson (02:49)


During the height of the Cold War, Rachel Carson wrote "Silent Spring," a book warning that the natural world will be destroyed by pesticides. The scientific community branded her a hysterical female but others admired her heroism.

World War II (04:53)

During the 1930s, Carson worked at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In an article in "Reader's Digest," the biologist called attention to the effects of DDT on Patuxent Research Refuge. Paul Hermann Müller discovered that it was an insecticide; DDT saved lives during the war.

Synthetic Pesticides and the Environment (02:49)

Carson asserted that DDT is toxic if ingested through the mouth. The magazine was not interested in printing her article. During World War II the death rate decreased because of the invention of pesticides.

Carson's Childhood (04:51)

Maria Carson shared her love of nature, education, and writing with her youngest daughter. Carson's first published work was in "St. Nicholas" at the age of 10. Carson received a scholarship to the Pennsylvania College for Women and majored in Biology.

Woods Hole Research Center (03:51)

Carson studied Marine Biology and fell in love with the ocean. During graduate school at John's Hopkins, the Great Depression hit forcing her to find work. After her obtaining her Master's Degree, she worked at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and sold pieces to newspapers.

Writing Professionally (02:06)

"Undersea" was published in "The Atlantic." Simon and Schuster offered Carson a small advance to write a book about the sea.

DDT Released for Public Use (04:01)

Paul Mueller wins a Nobel Prize for its discovery. Crop yields improved and malaria was eradicated in the United States. Scientists created Endrin and Toxaphene.

Carson's Second Book (05:28)

Carson visited Biscayne Bay to dive in the ocean to gain inspiration for her next book even though she could not swim well. Marie Rodell organized a publishing book deal with Oxford Press.

"The Sea Around Us" (07:03)

William Shawn agreed to publish 10 excerpts from Carson's second book in "The New Yorker." The book sold well even as the Cold War erupted. Critics raved that Carson was an expert diver.

Hydrogen Bomb Test (03:39)

Americans believed that science created improvements but also created ways to wage war. Carson worried that scientists were becoming too arrogant towards nature

Escaping to Maine (03:50)

Carson built a summer cottage on Port Island because book promotions and familial obligations were too much to take. At the edge of the property was an inter-tidal zone where sea anemones, starfish, and periwinkles live. Mrs. Dorothy Freeman wrote a letter welcoming her to the neighborhood.

Companionship With Dorothy Freeman (03:40)

Dorothy and Carson struck up a unique friendship filled with personal affection. Carson thought of her friend as a soulmate.

Writer's Block (02:25)

Meant to take only two years, Carson spent four years revising her third book, a shore guide for Houghton Mifflin. The writer dedicated "The Edge of the Sea" to the Freemans.

Russia Tests Hydrogen Bomb (03:49)

Fear of Nuclear war grows. The United States tests a dry fuel hydrogen bomb code-named Shrimp. The crew on Lucky Dragon 5 becomes ill from radiation poisoning.

Public Fears About Atmospheric Testing (02:21)

The Atomic Energy Commission proclaimed that nuclear testing above ground was safe outside of the test zone. Carson realized the potential ramifications of humans destroying nature.

"Remembrance of Earth" (04:23)

Carson's niece contracted pneumonia and died. The U.S. Department of Agriculture created a program to exterminate the fire ant. Studies spent money creating new pesticides instead of nature preservation.

USDA Program (03:16)

Pesticides killed ants, blackbirds, meadowlarks, armadillos, and possums in 1957. Consumers choose from over 6000 products with pesticides in them. The government mandated no safety testing.

Becoming an Activist (04:51)

Studies showed pesticides grew more concentrated in organisms higher up in the food chain. Insects grew a resistance to pesticides.

"Man Against the Earth" (05:07)

William Shawn agreed to publish two excerpts in "The New Yorker." Dorothy had misgivings about writing the book. Rachel decided to crusade against the use of pesticides and believed there was a link between it and cancer.

Cranberry Scare (02:34)

Pesticides sprayed on a bog in Oregon caused cancer. John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were photographed eating cranberries to quell American's fear.

Cancer Diagnosis (04:19)

Ulcers, breast cancer, and sinus infections plagued Carson. The doctor lied to her about her prognosis. After her radiation treatments, she could barely stand or walk.

"Silent Spring" (05:45)

Carson began researching radical treatment alternatives. Roger Christie describes how she started withdrawing from him so that she was able to complete her manuscript. In 1962, "The New Yorker" published the first excerpt from Carson's shore guide written for Houghton Mifflin.

Controversy Over "Silent Spring" (05:30)

Americans wrote to "The New Yorker" and the USDA criticizing the widespread use of pesticides. The chemical industry adamantly defended the use of DDT. Carson acknowledged there was a benefit in using synthetics, but cautioned against the consequences.

Criticism of "Silent Spring" (03:00)

Carson implored Houghton Mifflin to publish a rebuttal. The book became a best seller. As Carson's cancer progressed, she was determined to get her message out by making public appearances.

Women's National Press Club (05:53)

Carson addressed her critics and reminded the audience that pesticide manufacturers finance their own "safety studies." CBS aired a special report on pesticides.

Impact of "Silent Spring" (03:23)

Abraham Ribicoff agreed to lead a Congressional review on the use of pesticides. The President's Science Advisory Committee concluded that its overuse may lead to ramifications.

Carson's Last Summer at Southport (06:37)

Carson returned to Southport Island to spend time with Dorothy. Friends and loved ones describe her final few months and impact on government legislation. "Silent Spring" changed the world.

Credits: Rachel Carson (01:42)

Credits: Rachel Carson

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Rachel Carson

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Rachel Carson provides an illuminating and inspiring portrait of a seminal figure whose writings changed the course of our nation and is still highly relevant today.

Length: 114 minutes

Item#: EDP151142

Copyright date: ©2017

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