John Muir - farmer, inventor, sheepherder, naturalist, explorer,
writer, conservationist, was one of the earliest advocates of the
national park idea and its most eloquent spokesman. He was born on April
21, 1838 in Dunbar, Scotland. In 1849, when Muir was still a boy, the
Muir family emigrated to the United States, settling in Wisconsin.
Muir's father, a harsh disciplinarian, worked his family from dawn to
dusk. But whenever they were allowed a short period away from the plow
and hoe, Muir and his younger brother would roam the fields and woods of
the rich Wisconsin countryside. John became more and more a loving
observer of the natural world.
After three years at Wisconsin university, where he studied
botany and geology, Muir left Wisconsin to travel the United States and
Canada, odd-jobbing his way through the yet largely unspoiled land.
Eventually he walked a thousand miles from Indianapolis to the Gulf of
Mexico, then sailed to Cuba and later to Panama, where he crossed the
Isthmus and sailed up the West Coast, landing in San Francisco in March,
1868. From that moment on, though he would travel around the world,
California became his home.
Tour 2011 John Muir Home
It was California's Sierra Nevada and Yosemite Valley that truly
claimed him. In 1868, he walked across the San Joaquin Valley through
waist-high wildflowers and into the high country for the first time.
"Then it seemed to me the Sierra should be called not the Nevada, or
Snowy Range, but the Range of Light...the most divinely beautiful of all
the mountain chains I have ever seen."
By 1871 he had found living glaciers in the Sierra and conceived a
then-controversial theory of the glacial origins of Yosemite Valley,
later recognized as valid by Louis Agassiz who was the premier geologist
of the day. He began to be known throughout the country. Famous men of
the time - Joseph LeConte, Asa Gray and Ralph Waldo Emerson - made their
way to the door of his pine cabin.
Beginning in 1874, a series of magazine articles by Muir entitled
"Studies in the Sierra" launched his successful career as a writer. He
left the mountains and lived for awhile in Oakland, California. From
there he took many trips, including his first to Alaska in 1879, where
he was the first Euro-American to explore Glacier Bay. In 1880, he
married and afterward managed his father-in-law’s fruit ranch with great
success. But ten years of active ranching did not quell Muir's
wanderlust. His travels took him to Alaska many more times, also to
Australia, South America, Africa, Europe, China, Japan, and of course,
again and again to his beloved Sierra Nevada. It’s said that his wife,
noting his restlessness, would occasionally “shoo” him off from the
ranch and tell him to go to the mountains for the sake of his soul.
John Muir Home
In later years he turned more seriously to writing, publishing a
remarkable opus of 300 articles and 10 major books that recounted his
travels, expounded his naturalist philosophy, and beckoned everyone to
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings." Muir's love of the
high country gave his writings a truly spiritual quality. His readers,
whether they were presidents, congressmen, or plain folks, were inspired
and often moved to action by the enthusiasm of Muir's own unbounded
love of nature. Muir felt a spiritual connection to nature. He believed
that mankind is just one part of an interconnected natural world, not
its master; and that God is revealed through nature.
Through a series of articles appearing in Century magazine, Muir
drew attention to the devastation of mountain meadows and forests by
sheep and cattle. With the help of Century's associate editor, Robert
Underwood Johnson, Muir worked to remedy this destruction. In 1890, due
in large part to the efforts of Muir and Johnson, an act of Congress
created Yosemite National Park. Muir was also personally involved in the
creation of Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon
national parks. And his writings influenced the later establishment of
several other national parks and monuments. Muir deservedly is often
called the "Father of Our National Park System".
Quotes by John Muir
Johnson and others suggested to Muir that an association be
formed to protect the newly created Yosemite National Park from the
assaults of stockmen and others who would diminish its boundaries. In
1892, Muir and a number of his supporters founded the Sierra Club to, in
Muir's words, "do something for wildness and make the mountains glad."
Muir served as the Club's president until his death in 1914.
In 1901, Muir published Our National Parks, a book that brought
him to the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1903, Roosevelt
visited Muir in Yosemite. A three-night camping trip they made together
could be considered the most significant camping trip in conservation
history. There, together, beneath the trees, they laid the foundation of
Roosevelt's innovative and notable conservation programs.
President Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir with backdrop of some of Yosemite rugged terrain
John Muir was perhaps this country's most famous and influential
naturalist and conservationist. He taught the people of his time and
ours the importance of experiencing and protecting our natural heritage.
His words have heightened our perception of nature. His personal and
determined involvement in the great conservation questions of the day
was and remains an inspiration for environmental activists everywhere.
Muir Woods National Monument, (see pic below) a grove of redwoods north
of San Francisco, is named in his honor, as are the 211-mile John Muir
Trail, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir, and Muir
LINKS for information obtained (from articles at the following sites)
John Muir, life and biography
Muir and National Parks
John Muir in wickipedia
Researched and compiled by John I. Blair
Click on John I. Blair for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.Below: Scene in the Muir Woods National Monument
Post a Comment