Where was Rachel Carson?

From 1931 to 1936, famed zoologist Rachel Carson taught classes on a Maryland campus.  Many people believe, and it has been widely reported, that she taught in College Park, and, as such, is one of this university’s most notable faculty members.  But is that in fact the case?

Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson headshot, U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Service.

As it turns out, the answer is no.  Rachel Carson was hired and paid through the College Park campus, but no records have ever been uncovered to show that she taught here. Overwhelming documentary evidence (yearbooks, faculty directories, schedules of classes, and budgets) show that she taught in the Dental and Pharmacy Schools on the university’s Baltimore campus.

During that time Miss Carson maintained a residence in a neighborhood outside of Baltimore, and biographers have noted that she stayed in that area to support her family and care for her mother.

Carson’s book Silent Spring is noted for bringing attention to the potential effects of pesticides on humans and the environment, specifically DDT.  Posthumous criticisms of Carson have accused her of being alarmist and have blamed her book for millions of malaria deaths due to bans on DDT.  Interestingly, Carson never called for a ban on the pesticide, but for more attention to its then-indiscriminate use.  She died shortly after Silent Springwas published.  Since that time, her book and legacy have been used to push or tarnish various ideologies and agendas for over four decades.

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