The 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is September 27, 2012. Rachel Carson has been listed as one of the most influential people of the 20th Century, and Silent Spring as one of the most influential books of the century. Carson’s book was notable as the first systematic assessment of the impacts of broadcast pesticides on both natural and human health. She performed an extraordinary research project by synthesizing the work of ecologists, biochemists, medical researchers and public health experts into a comprehensive critique of our uncontrolled spraying of synthetic pesticides. Moreover, she presented her work in a form that was accessible to the general public, bringing grassroots and national attention to the issue. Her work is a salient example of the impact of science and public education on policy, and an example of what a brave, committed person can accomplish in society.
Many people, however, view Rachel Carson differently. They see her as a scare-monger whose claims were greatly exaggerated. Others consider the world’s systematic negative reaction against DDT a major error in science and public policy, and that millions have died when DDT treatment could have saved them.
Rachel Carson died soon after publication of Silent Spring, so the world was deprived of knowing how she and her views would have changed as environmental and medical science advanced. At this time, however, the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring, we have the opportunity to think broadly and deeply about this remarkable person and her impact on the half century behind us—and the one ahead.
On behalf of the North Carolina State University, I am delighted to offer this web-site as a resource for those who wish to dig deeper into the life and impact of Rachel Carson and her most important work, Silent Spring.
–Larry A. Nielsen, Professor of Natural Resources, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University