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Rachel Carson, 1952 NBA Winner,
Foresaw Environmental Threat

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This Memorial Day weekend marks the 100th anniversary of Rachel Carson's birth (May 27, 1907). A marine biologist and writer, Carson is viewed as a founder of the contemporary environmental protection movement and largely credited with drawing attention to the adverse effects of pesticides, especially the use of DDT, in her book Silent Spring, a 1963 NBA Nonfiction Finalist.

Carson discussed her career's natural progression and science as a subject matter in literature during a 1952 National Book Award acceptance speech for The Sea Around Us. "The aim of science is to discover and illuminate truth. And that, I take it, is the aim of literature, whether biography or history or fiction. It seems to me, then, that there can be no separate literature of science," she said.

The Sea Around Us won the 1952 Nonfiction National Book Award and sold more than 200,000 copies in hard cover within one year, according to TIME Magazine.

On June 9, 1980 Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, by then President Jimmy Carter.

Learn more about Carson:

The other Nonfiction Finalists in 1952, (the year Carson's book The Sea Around Us won the award) were:

  • Hannah Arendt - The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Marshall Davidson - Life in America
  • F.W. DuPee - Henry James
  • Waldo Frank - Birth of a World
  • Douglas S. Freeman - George Washington
  • Erich Fromm - The Forgotten Language
  • Oscar Handlin - The Uprooted
  • Walker Kazin - A Walker in the City
  • Dumas Malone - Jefferson and the Rights of Man
  • C. Wright Mills - White Collar
  • Arthur Mizener - The Far Side of Paradise
  • Lewis Mumford - Conduct of Life
  • Merlo Pusey - Charles Evans Hughes
  • Nathan Schachner - Thomas Jefferson
  • William Carlos Williams - The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams
  • C. Vann Woodward - Reunion and Reaction
NBA Classics, The Sea Around Us

Ms. Carson's 1952 Acceptance Speech for The Sea Around Us

The banner to the left, from the Foundation archives, lists the 1952 Non-fiction judging panel, who honored Rachel Carson's The Sea Around Us with their award.

Silent Spring was a 1963 NBA Nonfiction Finalist. The award went to Henry James, Vol. II: The Conquest of London, Henry James, Vol. III: The Middle Years by Leon Edel.

Other 1963 Finalists:

  • Arthur and Barbara Gelb - O'Neill
  • Alfred Kazin - Contemporaries
  • Frederic Morton - The Rothschilds
  • Ernest J. Simmons - Chekhov
  • Page Smith - John Adams
  • Barbara W. Tuchman - The Guns of August
  • Edmund Wilson - Patriotic Gore

Suggested Links:

Feature on CBS Sunday Morning;
The Legacy Of Silent Spring: Despite Industry Backlash, Rachel Carson's Warning About Chemicals Helped Found The Green Movement
Read a transcript of the report or watch the entire segment online at

The Rachel Carson Homestead -

The TIME 100: The Most Important People of the Century
Category of "Scientists & Thinkers" by Peter Matthiessen

Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient, Rachel Louise Carson

The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson. A site by Rachel Carson Biographer, Linda Lear,


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