Sept. 27, 1962
Excerpted in the New Yorker three months before it was published as a book, biologist Rachel Carson's eloquent, rigorous attack on the overuse of DDT and other pesticides she called them "elixirs of death" had already upset the chemical industry. Velsicol, maker of two top bug killers, threatened to sue the book's publisher, Houghton Mifflin, which stood firm but asked a toxicologist to recheck Carson's facts before it shipped Silent Spring to bookstores.
Carson spent publication day in her home in Silver Spring, Md., preparing for speeches and a book tour, according to biographer Linda Lear. In a letter to a friend, Carson called Silent Spring "something I believed in so deeply that there was no other course; nothing that ever happened made me even consider turning back." When the book appeared, industry critics assailed "the hysterical woman," but it became an instant best seller with lasting impact. It spurred the banning of DDT in the U.S., the passage of major environmental laws and eventually a global treaty to phase out 12 pesticides known as "the dirty dozen." Carson died, at 56, of cancer less than two years after the book's publication, but if she were alive today, she would undoubtedly warn about hundreds of other chemicals still released recklessly into nature.