Rachel Carson and Ruth Harrison Conference

Two day conference celebrating Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Ruth Harrison Animal Machines

Held on the 12th and 13th March 2013 at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

50 years ago, two books were published that changed not just public attitudes but the direction of scientific research. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) was a wake-up call for the environment and helped to turn conservation into the mainstream scientific and public concern it is today. Ruth Harrison’s Animal Machines (1964) was a wake-up call for the conditions of farm animals and helped to turn animal welfare into the mainstream scientific and public concern it is today. Rachel Carson wrote the foreword to Ruth Harrison’s book, which provides a tangible and personal link between them.

Both of these books were written by women, neither of whom held academic posts, and yet they had an immense impact on the way science itself developed. Conservation and animal welfare were, at the time of the publication, not scientific subjects at all. Now they are scientific disciplines in their own right, and even held up as some of the most important kinds of ‘impact’ that biological research can have. But the work they started is not yet done. There are still major issues confronting us today in animal welfare, in conservation, in the use of pesticides and, more pressingly, in resolving the conflicting demands between them. This conference celebrated these two women whose books had such an immense and lasting influence all over the world and then to look to the future to see how we might take forward the work they inspired but could not finish.

Rachel Carson and Ruth Harrison 5 years on from Biodiversity Institute on Vimeo.


Andrew Balmford (Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge)
Roland Bonney (Benchmark Holdings, Ltd.)
Irus Braverman (SUNY Buffalo Law School)
Marian Dawkins (Department of Zoology, University of Oxford)
Conor Mark Jameson (RSPB)
John Jensen (Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University)
Aubrey Manning (University of Edinburgh)
Gavin Neath (Unilever)
Margaret Shannon (Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Freiburg)
Claudio Sillero (WildCRU, University of Oxford)
Sten Stymne (Department of Plant Breeding,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)
Amanda Vincent (University of British Columbia)
Kurt Vogel (University of Wisconsin-River Falls)
Dan Weary (University of British Columbia)
John Webster (University of Bristol)
Kathy Willis (Biodiversity Institute, University of Oxford)

If you have any questions about this of other Biodiversity Institute events please do contact us.

For the support of the conference sponsors and support

  • AAAS Science International Inc
  • Biodiversity Institute Oxford
  • CABI
  • Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
  • FACT: Farm Animal Care Trust
  • Oxford Martin School
  • WSPA:World Society for the Protection of Animals