The Nature of Things

21 April marks the birthday of conservationist and nature writer John Muir, in 1838. He is frequently referred to as the ‘Father of the National Parks’, having petitioned the Congress for passage of the National Park bill in 1890.

Muir was born in Scotland, but his family relocated to Wisconsin in 1849, establishing Fountain Lake Farm, near Portage.

Muir would take his first Botany lesson at the UW-Madison, beneath a black locust tree outside of North Hall. Of this experience he would later write in his autobiography,

This fine lesson charmed me and sent me flying to the woods and meadows in wild enthusiasm.

Muir also had a strong influence on the conservation views of President Theodore Roosevelt, having camped in the open air with him at Glacier Point in Yosemite in 1903.

While approaching naturalism with the fervor of a religious prophet, Muir’s observations regarding the Native peoples of the Americas was mixed, but was occasionally sympathetic, as when he wrote that they were

robbed of their lands and pushed ruthlessly back into narrower and narrower limits by alien races who were cutting off their means of livelihood.

Muir published six volumes of writings, all describing explorations of natural settings. Four additional books were published posthumously.