May 27, 1907: Birth of Rachel Carson; 1755: First Municipal Water Pumping Plant

May 27, 1907: Birth of Rachel Carson. “Biologist and author of Silent Spring, The Sea Wind and other non-fiction work intended to improve the public understanding of science, Carson became a leading figure in the environmental movement before her death in 1964.”

Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

Carson began her career as an aquatic biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries,[2] and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her a U.S. National Book Award,[3] recognition as a gifted writer, and financial security. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the reissued version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers. This sea trilogy explores the whole of ocean life from the shores to the depths.

Late in the 1950s, Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people. Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.”

May 27, 1755: Hans Christopher Christiansen installed the first municipal water pumping plant in America at Bethlehem, PA; city supplied from a 70 foot high tank that was filled with water pumped from a spring through wooden pipes.

“Begun in 1754 and enlarged in 1762, the Bethlehem Waterworks is thought to be the first municipal pumping system to provide drinking and washing water in the United States. Johann Christopher Christensen devised the system in 1754 to transfer spring water from the Monocray Creek flood plain to the Moravian settlement on the bluff above it. Six years later, Christensen enlarged the waterworks and installed it in a 24-foot-square limestone rubble structure with a red-tile covered hipped-bellcast-gable roof. The system’s 18-foot undershot waterwheel powered three single acting cast-iron pumps which forced spring water through wood (later lead) pipes 320 feet (94 vertical feet) by a collecting tower, and from there water flowed by gravity to strategically placed cisterns throughout the community. Machines to raise water had been in use in Europe for centuries, but until the construction of the Bethlehem Waterworks, none had been erected in the American Colonies.

In 1652 the Water-Works Company of Boston had constructed a gravity conduit system that used bored logs to convey water from wells and springs to a 12-foot-square reservoir, but the system had not fulfilled the expectations of its promoters and had fallen into disuse. Christensen, born in Schleswig-Holstein in 1716 and trained during his youth in a royal mill in Hadersleben, probably took his ideas for the Bethlehem system from his knowledge of the forcing pumps that had been in use in many German cities since the end of the 15th century. The system served the city until 1832.

By the 1960s the area had become an automobile junkyard. The stone pumphouse was restored in the 1970s, and the waterwheel and pumps were subsequently reconstructed based on the original plans that had been preserved in the Moravian Archives in Germany. The Old Waterworks is a National Historic Landmark.”

References: “Business History.” Website http://www.businesshistory.com/index.php and Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/delaware/wat.htm

Bethlehem Pumping Plant

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