Rachel Carson | March 2022
Driving around Pittsburgh, it’s virtually impossible to avoid crossing a bridge. Downtown, some of our bridges are named after notable Pittsburghers: Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol, and Rachel Carson, the scientist and writer who we’re celebrating with this month’s Tee Club because of her commitment to environmental advocacy and for her role as a feminist icon for her scientific work in a male-dominated field.
Carson was a Pittsburgh native, born May 27, 1907, in the sleepy Allegheny River town of Springdale where she spent her childhood exploring the woods and streams on her family’s farmland. She became enamored by the natural world while reading stories by Beatrix Potter, sparking an interest in writing she would later combine with her scientific work. In 1925, Carson attended the Pittsburgh College for Women which later became Chatham University. Her studies eventually brought her to Johns Hopkins University where she received a Master’s degree in zoology. The combination of biological expertise and a deep passion for writing enabled her to influence generations to come in the importance of environmental stewardship when the notion was still quite new.
In her most famous book, Silent Spring, Rachel Carson wrote, “Man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.” The book was published in 1962 as her final act of conservation and preservation against what she observed as the negative, encroaching effects of pesticides in agriculture that affected both humans and the environment. Indeed, her consequential testimony in front of Congress urged for the regulation of harmful DDT, arguing that human life is inherently connected to the natural world and that our health and well-being rely on the health and well-being of our environment. Following her death after a long battle with breast cancer in 1964, her influence helped convince President Nixon to create the Environmental Protection Agency. Later, President Jimmy Carter awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
This year, celebrate Earth Day with a special Tee Club graphic honoring Carson’s environmental legacy, one born on the banks of the Allegheny River and continues to flow like the river itself.