PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Rachel Carson was one of the leading environmentalists in the world and a trusted public voice of science in the U.S. She researched and wrote extensively on environmental issues and testified in numerous government hearings, leading to sweeping policy changes. Cason is often cited as a founding member of the modern environmental movement.
Born in Springdale on May 27, 1907, Carson grew up on a 65-acre farm. She became enthralled with animals and writing stories, going on to initially major in English at the Pennsylvania College for Women (known today as Chatham University) with the goal of becoming a writer.
In January 1928, Carson switched her major to biology and completed a summer fellowship at the U.S. Marine Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. She was awarded a scholarship to complete her graduate degree in zoology at John Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1929.
Carson was hired part-time at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries in 1935 to write a series of radio programs. The programs got her noticed and she was hired full-time in 1936, only the second woman ever hired by the Bureau.
By 1941, when she published her first book “Under the Sea-Wind,” Carson was renowned for her prolific newspaper columns and public bulletins. She was soon promoted again, to editor-in-chief of all Fish and Wildlife Service publications.
She resigned in 1952 to focus on writing and authored two more prominent books and a slew of articles based on them, including one in Popular Science in 1951 that suggested the oceans could be the root cause of climate change.
Carson’s last book, “Silent Spring,” became her masterwork when it was published in 1962. The book examined the interactions of pesticides with wildlife and provoked a firestorm of controversy with its assertions that the chemical pesticide DDT was dangerous.
The federal government was prompted to conduct its own research, which ultimately concluded that Carson was right and a full review of American pesticide policy was ordered. Carson testified before Congress and as a direct result of her research, DDT was banned.
The American Chemical Society designated “Silent Spring” a National Historic Chemical Landmark in 2012 for changing the industry’s focus to green practices and sustainability.
Carson died of breast cancer in Silver Spring, Md. on April 14, 1964, at the age of 57. Many have speculated that Carson’s work with environmental toxins may have caused the disease.
The Ninth Street Bridge was renamed for Pittsburgh’s famed environmentalist, Rachel Carson, on Earth Day, April 22, 2006. It is one of three self-anchored suspension bridges built across the Allegheny River between 1924 to 1928, the first of their kind in the United States. Known as the Three Sisters, the bridges use steel eyebars instead of cables and are the only trio of nearly identical bridges in the nation.
The other two sister bridges have also been renamed. The Sixth Street Bridge was renamed for Roberto Clemente in 1999 and the Seventh Street Bridge was named for Andy Warhol in 2005.
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