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Rachel Carson, Author of “Silent Spring,” Is Dead

Apr. 14, 1964 - Rachel Carson, the biologist and writer on nature and science whose book “Silent Spring” touched off a major controversy on the effects of pesticides, died today in her home in Silver Spring, Md. She was 56 years old. Her death was reported in New York by Marie Rodell, her literary agent. Miss Rodell said that Miss Carson had had cancer “for some years,” and that she had been aware of her illness.

With the publication of “Silent Spring” in 1962, Miss Carson set off a nationally publicized struggle between the proponents and opponents of the widespread use of poisonous chemicals to kill insects. Miss Carson was an opponent. Some of Miss Carson’s critics compared her to Carrie Nation, the hatchet-wielding temperance advocate. This comparison was rejected quietly by Miss Carson. Her position, as a biologist, was simply that she was a natural scientist in search of truth and that the indiscriminate use of poisonous chemical sprays called for public awareness of what was going on. Quoting Jean Rostand, the French writer and biologist, she said: “The obligation to endure gives us the right to know.”

Miss Carson, who was born May 27, 1907, in Springdale, Pa., accepted a position in 1936 as aquatic biologist with the Bureau of Fisheries in Washington. She continued with the bureau and its successor, the Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1937, an article she wrote called “Undersea” was published in the Atlantic Monthly magazine, and this led to her first book, “Under the Sea Wind,” in 1941. This was followed by her appointment as editor-in-chief of the Fish and Wildlife Service, blending her two worlds: biology and writing.

“The Sea Around Us,” published in 1951, made her world famous, and she received numerous honors, including the National Book Award. In 1952, she resigned from her government post to continue her writing. “The Edge of the Sea” was published in 1955, and before long she was at work researching material for “Silent Spring.”

Miss Carson leaves a brother, Robert M. Carson, and an adopted son, Roger Christie, who was her grandnephew. Funeral plans are pending.

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