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‘Silent Spring’: Reversed Opinion

December 24, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 52

C &EN proudly features the American Chemical Society’s designation of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” as a National Historic Chemical Landmark (Nov. 26, page 38). The article extols the great, favorable impact that the book launched when it was published 50 years ago.

I am an emeritus member of ACS, and I vividly remember that the then-editor of C&EN published several strongly worded editorials castigating Carson and her “ridiculous” and “absurd” position and allegations! He condemned her for setting back science and chemistry in her “sensational and outlandish opinions!”

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All of this serves to further confirm the statement made by another C&EN reader (July 9, page 2). To wit, “I have always been taken aback by the finality of many chemists’ opinions. If we have learned anything, it is that we do not know all the answers, because life structures are very complex.” He went on to add: “How many times in the past 10 years alone have we reversed our original position?”

The turnaround regarding Carson and her publication is a classic example that hits close to home for all of us, ACS included.

I would add that not only chemists and other scientists should heed this admonition, but that politicians should as well.

Edward G. Feldmann
Sarasota, Fla.


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