Priscilla Coit Murphy

Author's Information

Priscilla Coit Murphy is an independent scholar living in Watertown, Massachusetts. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College, a master’s from American University, and a doctorate in media history from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she taught for several years.

A lifelong book lover, Priscilla has also worked in various areas of book publishing, especially as a manuscript editor. Her interest in mass media and media history soon merged with her interest in books and book publishing, and she soon focused on the unique interactions between books and media in creating public debate.

In What a Book Can Do, she explores the history of how Rachel Carson's 1962 bestseller Silent Spring came to be published and, through its life in the media, put the issues of pesticide abuse and environmental awareness into public awareness.

In addition, she has written chapters on books and the media for Vol. 5 of the History of the Book in America and for Rethinking Media Change from MIT’s Media in Transition Series. She also taught courses in UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science and its School of Government.

She has recently completed Dewauki's Last Days, a novel based on life at a New Hampshire grande-dame-style resort hotel in 1965, its final summer -- a notable one for staff, guests, and the nation.

Currently, she is working on a general-audience history of Christmas traditions in Massachusetts.

She is available to speak to groups interested in the public and media history of Silent Spring, as well as offering general discussion of the relationship between books and the media system, both past and present.

Selected Works with links

“Highly readable and often illuminating history of the writing and aftermath of Rachel Carson's masterpiece”
Chapter on books and the media in History of the Book in America Vol. 5
Historical survey of predictions about the end of books

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