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What Is "Silent Spring"?

Originally serialized in 1962 by The New Yorker and later published by Houghton Mifflin, Rachel Carson's controversial book, Silent Spring, mobilized people the world over—and in a way no other comparable work of twentieth century nonfiction had. Besides raising our consciousness about ecology and launching the modern environmentalist movement, Carson's sobering exposé of the pesticide industry's campaign of disinformation inspired a 1972 ban that brought an end to the use of DDT in the United States.

A 1957 lawsuit indicting the U.S. Department of Agriculture over aerial spraying of Long Island, coupled with a friend's letter to The Boston Herald expressing dismay over the widespread death of birds on her property after aerial DDT spraying, inspired Carson to begin a research project examining the environmental impact of pesticides, and in particular the anti-malaria insecticide campaigns of the Pacific war effort during World War II. That research would become the acclaimed book, Silent Spring. In it, Carson argued that unregulated pesticide use had serious ramifications for wildlife and humans, alike; furthermore, the book's poignant title, alluding to a line from a John Keats poem, prophesied a future in which spring would one day fall eternally silent of all birdsong.

The book's damning message was fiercely polarizing, and a number of her detractors, especially those gainsaying the "theory" of global warming, have since written many works attempting to discredit Carson's claims as misinformed, uneducated, or outright propagandistic. Some even accused Carson of being an hysterical female, articulating a typically sexist sentiment of the time, when women were considered to have little reputable voice in the sciences. However, because of the important debate that followed in the wake of its publication, President Kennedy's Science Advisory Committee investigated, and subsequently validated, Carson's research, resulting in new regulations that brought to heel large, globally powerful chemical companies like Monsanto and Dow.

Carson continues to gain loyal supporters who have been moved by her courage and changed by her philosophy of ecology. Co-authors H.F. van Emden (Reading University Professor of Agriculture and expert in pest management) and David Peakall (internationally recognized toxicologist) co-authored the 1996 follow-up Beyond Silent Spring, vindicating Carson's research and bringing attention to its reputable scientific perspective. And, in an era of debate over the science of global warming, Carson continues to receive frequent and reverential mention, demonstrating that her moniker as the "Mother of Environmentalism" is no hyperbole. Even former Vice-President Al Gore, reputed for his involvement in the now iconic eco-documentary An Inconvenient Truth, affirms that Carson has been more inspirational than any other person in his advocacy of environmental causes. Discover Magazine selected Silent Spring as one of the twenty-five most important science books of all time, proving that Rachel Carson's work is seminally important as it continues to speak to future generations of readers with its thought-provoking perspective and its resilient spirit of environmentalism.

English Language Editions

1962 hardback edition 1962 Houghton Mifflin edition
1962 paperback edition 1962 H Hamilton edition
1965 Penguin paperback 1966 Fawcette Crest Books
1970 Fawcett World Press paperback 1970 Penguin Books Ltd. paperback
1982 Fawecett Press paperback 1981 Mas Market paperback alt cover
1982 Fawcett paperback 1986 DH Audio Book edition
1987 25th Anniversary Edition 1991 Penguin paperback
1994 Clarion Books 1994 Houghton Mifflin
1997 Thorndike Press 1999 Dh Audio book edition
2000 Folio Society edition 2000 Penguin paperback
2000 Penguin Modern Classics 2002 Anniversary paperback
Last Updated: 07/28/2017


Foreign Language Editions


1966 Norwegian edition 

1968 Plon French ed.

1985 Critic Spanish ed.

1990 Yayasan Obor Indonesian ed

2001 Planeta Publishing Corp.

2001 Shinchosha ed.

2001 Shinchosha edition alternative cover

2007 Beck German edition

2010 Gaia Portuguese edition

2010 Gaia Portuguese edition alternative

Ch'immuk ui pom Korean edition

Ji jing de chung tian Chinese edition.

Malaysian edition

Chinese edition

Tagalog edition


Tate Hurvitz
Project Director

  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District