NANFA-- John Muir: founder of Sierra Club

Sajjad Lateef (
Thu, 14 Sep 2000 15:46:53 -0500 (CDT)

        I thought I would share the following piece I read in a recent
NewsScan (an email listserve for News about Science and Technology). They
usually run a short bio on some noteworthy person called the Honorary
Subscriber. Now if they would only write about Rafinesque (what a cool
name) and the others that Dave Neely mentioned ...

        Note that I am niether for nor against the Sierra Club - I just
don't know enough about them to take sides.

        Today's Honorary Subscriber is John Muir (1838-1914), who in the
course of a productive lifetime found occupation as a farmer, inventor,
sheepherder, naturalist, explorer, writer and conservationist.
        Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland, and emigrated with his family to
a farm in Wisconsin. Early on, he became a keen observer of the natural
world and an inventive wood worker -- making award-winning wooden
mechanisms, including clocks and a device timed to tip him out of bed
before dawn. He attended the University of Wisconsin, but left after three
years to travel the yet unspoiled lands of the northern United States and
Canada, supporting himself by working at odd-jobs.
        In 1867 while temporarily blinded by a work-related accident, Muir
resolved to commit himself upon recovery to the wandering life, where his
eyes would feast on the natural beauty of the earth. His wanderlust first
took him on a thousand-mile walk to the Gulf of Mexico, and from there he
sailed to Cuba, and later to Panama. 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.
        It was California's Sierra Nevada and Yosemite that truly claimed
him. He called the Sierra the Range of Light -- the most divinely beautiful
of all mountain chains. He herded sheep through that first summer and made
his home in Yosemite. Beginning in 1874, he wrote a series of articles
entitled "Studies in the Sierra" that launched his successful writing
career and brought him to public attention. Famous men of the time --
Joseph LeConte, Asa Gray and Ralph Waldo Emerson -- made their way to the
door of his pine cabin.
        In 1880 he married and settled down in Martinez, California, where
he managed a successful family fruit ranch business. He continued to make
time to travel, visiting Alaska (where he discovered Glacier Bay),
Australia, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Japan.
        In later years he concentrated on his serious writing, publishing
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." He drew attention to the devastation of mountain
meadows and forests by sheep and cattle. In 1890, due in large part to his
efforts, Congress created Yosemite National Park, followed later by the
creation of Sequoia , Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon
national parks. Muir deservedly is often called the "Father of Our National
Park System," and perhaps the crowning achievement of his life was the
founding of the Sierra Club to "do something for wildness and make the
mountains glad."