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John Muir

America’s First Distinguished Naturalist, Conservationist

John Muir was America’s first great naturalist. He was also the most influential 19th century American in establishing policy in regard to forest conservation and natural parks. ■ To him is largely due the credit for the establishment of several national parks like Yosemite in California. He attracted attention in many parts of the world by his writings on nature and the American wilderness. ■ In 1849, when John Muir was 11, his family emigrated from their home in Dunbar, Scotland, to a backwoods farm near Portage, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin where he studied botany and chemistry. He yearned to see more of the nation’s natural wonders, so he left the university before his graduation. ■ He walked to the Gulf of Mexico and up through California, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Canada and Alaska. Through his writings, he cajoled and pleaded with public leaders to join in the crusade to preserve and protect the public lands in the West, including the majestic redwood forests. ■ In 1892, Muir helped to create the Sierra Club and became its first president. In later years, he visited many countries, studying their flora. He was welcomed by statesmen and civic leaders who were impressed by his pleas to people in power to act to preserve the natural environment. ■ Muir was honored by the University of Wisconsin with an honorary degree of doctor of laws 34 years after he left the university. His name is immortalized in California’s Muir Woods and Wisconsin’s Muir Lake. He died the day before Christmas in 1914 at his home is Los Angeles.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546