Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book Silent Spring was published on this date in 1962 (books by this author). Carson was a marine biologist, but she was also a crafter of lyrical prose who contributed to magazines like The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly, and who had already published three popular lyrical books about the sea. One of these — The Sea Around Us (1951) — had won the National Book Award. In the course of her work, Carson became aware of the ways that chemical pesticides were harming plants and wildlife. She felt it was important to make the public aware of this, but she was not an investigative journalist and didn’t feel confident enough to write what she called the “poison book.” She began trying to interest magazines in the subject as early as 1945. In 1958, Carson’s friend mentioned that she was finding a lot of dead birds in her Massachusetts bird sanctuary. Carson, in turn, wrote to E.B. White, who was an editor at The New Yorker. She suggested that White write an article about pesticides. He said the magazine would be keen to publish such an article, but he encouraged her to write it herself. The article became a multiyear project that Carson pursued through personal tragedies like the death of her mother, and her own diagnosis with breast cancer in 1960.
Read more about Rachel Carson here: The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor | A poem each day, plus literary and historical notes from this day in history