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September 28, 2012
by Shelley Dawicki
Photos by Anne O'Brien

Woods Hole Honors Rachel Carson

50th Anniversary of "Silent Spring" Observed

Rachel Carson was a pioneer woman scientist in the federal government, a respected editor and author, and a tireless advocate for the environment.

Carson first arrived in Woods Hole in the summer of 1929 shortly after graduating from Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College). As a summer student and later as a seasonal researcher at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Carson worked and collaborated with scientists from the MBL and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (a predecessor to NOAA Fisheries Service).  Her early interests were turtles, but in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University she changed her focus to bony fishes and earned a master’s degree in 1932.

In 1935 she became one of the first two women hired in a non-clerical position with the Bureau of Fisheries.  She advanced quickly to Biologist and Chief Editor of Publications for the agency by 1949. She and Marie Rodell became the first women to sail on a federal research vessel, the Albatross III out of Woods Hole, that same year. 

Carson resigned from federal service in 1952 to pursue her writing career full-time.  She continued to return to Woods Hole, where she had first seen the ocean, until her death in 1964. Read the tribute by NEFSC's Linda Despres, the first female chief scientist on a bottom trawl cruise on the Albatross IV.

Those ties to Woods Hole and its scientific institutions were celebrated at a public ceremony September 27, the 50th anniversary of the publication of "Silent Spring", at Waterfront Park on Water Street in Woods Hole, where a statue of Rachel Carson will be unveiled in June 2013.

Learn more about Rachel Carson at Women at Sea Aboard the Albatross and as one of NOAA's Top Ten History Makers.

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