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As Silent Spring passed the half-century mark, historians have continued to reflect on its

significance. For this issue of Endeavour, we drew together six articles that explore a few of
the many legacies of this remarkable book. Given the impressive scope and breadth of the
papers in this issue, it is clear that Silent Spring, and the shock waves surrounding its
publication, continue to provide rich fodder for historical analysis.
Fifty years ago, a quiet, unassuming science writer named Rachel Carson published a vivid
indictment of the indis-criminate use of chemical pesticides, a practice that had been
heavily promoted not only by chemical companies but also the United States Department of
Agriculture. Among the books many evocative images, its title Silent Spring found
particular resonance with Americans. Reactions to the book ranged from exultant praise to
utter condemna-tion. Following its publication, Carson testified before the Presidents
Science Advisory Committee and a Congres-sional Hearing. She was also featured in a
widely viewed special report that aired on one of the major American television networks,
an appearance that helped make Carson a household name. In the decades since publication, historians and other scholars have explored the many dimensions of Carsons life and
work. Carsons biographers have revealed her to be an unlikely though profoundly
influential advocate.1 Another significant theme in re-search has been Carsons role in
pesticides policy in the United States and around the world.2 Historians have also
underscored the importance of Silent Spring in the emerg-ing awareness of environmental
health.3 Scholars have credited Silent Spring with launching the American envi-ronmental
movement.4
As Silent Spring passed the half-century mark, histor-ians have continued to reflect on its
significance. For this issue of Endeavour, we drew together six articles that explore a few of
the many legacies of this remarkable book. Given the impressive scope and breadth of the
papers in this issue, it is clear that Silent Spring, and the shock waves surrounding its
publication, continue to provide rich fodder for historical analysis.
In From Coal to DDT, Walter M. Jarman and Karlheinz Ballschmiter take the long view in
tracing the innovations in the European chemical industry that led to the develop-ment of
DDT. They explore how the emergence of coking during the early nineteenth century
produced a by-product known as coal tar, which in turn yielded a host of com-mercially
valuable products including aniline dyes, anti-malarial drugs and insecticides, most notably
DDT. This account reveals the significant role of scientists within the chemical industry in
the development and analysis of novel products, like DDT, one of the primary targets of
Carsons indictment.
Frederick Davis reveals how Charles Eltons The Ecolo-gy of Invasions strongly influenced
Rachel Carson and Silent Spring. Drawing on evidence from these two books and a series of
critical published and archival documents, Davis shows how Eltons book galvanized
Carsons think-ing about the passage of environmental contaminants through ecosystems
and into wildlife and humans. But if she found inspiration in Eltons writing, Carson
animated the concepts to brilliant effect with striking examples that riveted the attention of
many Americans. Thus, Silent Spring effectively bridged the gap between ivory-tower
science and science for the public.
Two of the articles analyze how the media characterized Carson and Silent Spring in the
aftermath of its publica-tion. In How to Make a Villain, David Hecht examines how Carson
has been demonized first by contemporaries and more recently by those who argue not
only that DDT would save lives in malarial-ridden Africa but also attri-bute bans and
restriction on that pesticide directly to Carson herself. Intriguingly, Hecht argues that the

two debates reversed how narratives of DDT and ecology were deployed rhetorically. He
concludes that making icons of scientists infuses technical debates with values. Mark
Barrow deconstructs a host of political cartoons inspired by Carson and Silent Spring.
Cartoons, whether humor- ous or sardonic, reveal many aspects of debates surround- ing
the politics of pesticides, scientific authority during the Cold War and the dawning of the
Age of Ecology. Like Hecht, Barrow enriches our understanding of the recep-tion of Silent
Spring.
Two articles track the impact of Silent Spring on two strikingly different groups. David Vail
considers how chemical companies marketed pesticides to sprayers in the Midwestern U.S.,
particularly Kansas, both before and after the publication of Silent Spring. From chemical
companies, sprayers learned a notion of environmental health in which pesticides played an
integral role. Yet, in the aftermath of Silent Spring, rather than abandoning their earlier view
of environmental health, which chemical companies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture
tied directly to chemical insecticides, sprayers modified it to accommodate new legislation.
In addition, they adopted new technology, in part as a result of an emerging concern for a
new vision of environmental health informed by ecological science as promulgated by
Carson in Silent Spring. In a related vein, Amy Hay analyzes three cam-paigns against the
deployment of chemical defoliants in the western United States by federal and municipal
agencies. In each case, a woman activist found inspiration in Rachel Carsons Silent Spring.
Like Carson, they informed the public about environmental risks of Agent Orange herbicides and challenged scientific authority as presented by government officials, university
scientists and industry representatives. Hays thoughtful analysis reveals how activists
shaped public policy regarding herbicides just as the use of herbicides in Vietnam would
undergo scrutiny and modification.
The fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring has provided an opportunity to
revisit this rich and influential book. The six articles in this issue of Endeavour attest to the
wonderful diversity and excellent quality of studies devoted to Rachel Carson and Silent
Spring. These papers provide insight into a book that shaped scientific and public
understanding of pesticides. Moreover, each of the papers included in this issue have
pointed to new directions for research by analyzing the business history of synthetic
chemicals, a critical source to the genesis of Silent Spring, the media response to Carsons
book, past and present, Silent Springs influence on some of the workers best acquainted
with pesticides and the inspiration it provided to other campaigns against the indiscriminate
use of synthetic chemicals in the environment.