Silent Spring

Carson, Rachel | from Multimedia Library Collection:
Books & Profiles

Rachel Carson. Silent Spring.
First edition cover (1962)

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.

The start of the American environmental movement is often cited as 16 June 1962, the date of The New Yorker magazine that contained the first of three excerpts from Rachel Carson’s new book, Silent Spring. Controversy ignited immediately. Just five weeks later, before the book was even out, a 22 July headline in The New York Times declared, “‘Silent Spring’ Is Now Noisy Summer.”

During the 1950s Rachel Carson, biologist and nature writer, had turned her attention to a problem that concerned her for many years: the use and abuse of chemicals in agriculture and pest control. Decades of writing science for the public had prepared her make complex ideas understandable and compelling to general readers.

Houghton Mifflin released Silent Spring on 27 September 1962. It inspired immediate outrage and opposition. Chemical and agricultural spokesmen attacked both the book and its author. Yet it also galvanized ecologists, reformers, biologists, conservationists, social critics, and farmers to join in the American environmental movement.

Carson’s book sold hundreds of thousands of copies and stayed on the best seller list for thirty-one months. It helped transform and broaden the older conservation movement into more comprehensive and ecologically informed environmentalism. Moreover, through dozens of translations, Silent Spring affected events abroad and prepared the way for the rise of environmental and green movements worldwide.  (Text adapted from Mark Stoll’s virtual exhibition “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a Book that Changed the World”.)