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Georg Steller (1709 – 1746)

Steller was born in Germany in 1709 and trained as a botanist, zoologist, and medical doctor.  He went to Russia and joined Vitus Bering’s Second Kamchatka Expedition and became the first European known to set foot in Alaska, landing on Kayak Island on July 20, 1741. Bering gave Steller only 10 hours to explore the island and collect samples before weighing anchor and returning home. Of the six species of birds and mammals that Steller described, two are extinct, three are endangered; only the Steller’s jay – which he pointed to as proof that Alaska was part of North America -- is not threatened.  Steller was often mocked by the Russian crew, but when they were shipwrecked on their way back to Russia, he treated them for scurvy, saving their lives.  Steller never made it home, dying of fever in Siberia. Grave robbers dug up his body and stole his coat.

Georg Steller
Mary Anning
Charles Darwin
John Muir
Annie Alexander
Aldo Leopold

Rachel Carson (1907 -- 1964)

Carson started writing stories about animals at age eight, had her first one published at age ten in St. Nicholas magazine. She earned a master’s degree in zoology and was planning to pursue a doctorate, but instead joined the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (later merged into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) as a marine biologist to help her struggling family during the Depression. Her first book, The Sea Around Us (1950) was published first as a series of magazine articles and later as a book, followed by two more in a marine trilogy. The Sea Around Us was a bestseller that earned Carson the National Book Award. Her fourth and final book, Silent Spring (1962), first serialized in the New Yorker, described the devastating role of pesticides and jump-started the environmental consciousness of millions of people. The book was directly responsible for a ban on DDT, chlordane, heptachlor, and similar synthetic pesticides; saving hundreds of species from near-certain extinction; and galvanized support for the Environmental Protection Agency.  Carson died at age 56 of a heart attack caused by breast cancer. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.

Rachel Carson
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