Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
John Muir was a brilliant inventor and scholar, but that’s not what he’s remembered for. He’s remembered for his deep love for the natural world and his passion for conserving it.
- John Muir was born in Scotland in 1838. He and his brother loved exploring the wilds there. His family sailed to the United States in 1849.
- His family lived in a small cabin in a forest in Wisconsin until his father could build a larger home. Once again, John and his siblings found plenty in the natural world to entertain them.
- John was naturally curious and resourceful. He had an engineer’s mind and built many inventions, including a scholar’s desk that would select a book, open it, and then close it again and select a different book. John thought he might become an inventor, but when a factory accident left him temporarily blind, he realized that the natural world was his true love. When his sight was restored and he could see the trees and plants he loved again, he decided to become a naturalist and an explorer.
- John walked from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico, studying the plants, animals, and rivers along the way. Throughout his life, he kept extensive notes of his findings and published many magazine articles.
- John made his way to California. He fell in love with the Sierra Mountains. John talked about plants, trees, and animals as if they were friends and real people. He learned to watch them, listen to them, and learn from them.
- John spent more time outdoors than in, even in bad weather. He said a mossy bed in the forest was the best place to sleep. He built a cabin with a creek running through it so he could hear its melody as he went to sleep at night.
- He noticed that people were rapidly cutting down trees without any thought for the future. He knew America’s wild lands would be destroyed if something wasn’t done. He wrote newspaper articles and lectured at events. For several years, nobody listened, but he kept talking. Finally, people began to understand that John was right. President Theodore Roosevelt visited John in the Sierra Mountains and started the national parks movement.
Questions and Answers
Question: Did John Muir have a family?
Answer: Eventually John Muir married Louie Wanda Strentzel when he was 42-years-old. They lived and worked on her family’s ranch near San Francisco. John loved his wife and two daughters, but he often missed his work in the mountains. Louie eventually sold part of the ranch so John could devote more time to his natural studies. She was a great support for him.
John Muir wrote many wonderful books about his adventures. You might like Stickeen, the story of a dog who saved his life. PBS has also produced a documentary about Muir. Watch a trailer of it here.