Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Combining his skills as a scientist, explorer, and writer, Muir played a significant role in the conservation movement and in the development of the United States National Park system.
John Muir was born April 21, 1838, in Dunbar, Scotland. His mother, Ann Gilrye Muir, would give birth to three sons and five daughters, John being the eldest son and the third child. She married Daniel Muir, who as a child grew up under the harshest poverty imaginable. He eventually gained stature as a middle-class grain merchant and became a Presbyterian of severe Fundamentalist religious beliefs. He worshiped a God of wrath who found evil in almost every childish activity. Typically, John and his playmates would leave the yard, and his tyrannical father would fly into a rage and punish the innocent lad. When his father did not have the total devotion of his entire family, he would punish them with the greatest severity.
In 1849, at age eleven, John and his family immigrated to the United States in search of greater economic opportunity. The Muirs moved to Portage, Wisconsin, an area that had a fine reputation for wheat growing, where they purchased farmland. John marveled at the beauty of the countryside. He kept busy with farm chores and read at night when he was thought to be asleep. He also developed an early love of machinery and began the practice of waking at one in the morning to go to his...
(The entire section is 1822 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
John Muir (MYOO-ur), the “godfather” of the United States’ national park system, was not principally a writer, though he wrote a vigorous and muscular prose reminiscent of his life. He was born in Scotland to a strict Calvinist family, where harsh physical punishment was used to enforce work and study. In 1849 his father Daniel emigrated to pioneer Wisconsin with his three older children.
Muir’s love of nature and his inventive abilities manifested themselves early. Driven by eagerness to learn, he devised a wooden clock geared to his bed, “an early rising machine” to wake him for study before he had to go to work. In 1861, the year he entered the University of Wisconsin, many of his inventions relating to nature study were displayed at the state fair.
He left the university without taking a degree, though he was honored by four degrees in later life. His inventive genius gave way to his love of nature when a factory accident impaired his eyesight. Once he regained his sight, he decided to walk from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico, observing nature and recording his thoughts along the way. His first journal, which was later published as A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf, opens with the heading, “John Muir, Earth-planet, Universe,” indicating his desire to establish new values, turning away from mechanization and adopting a life in harmony with nature. In 1868, determined to “study the inventions of God,” he emigrated...
(The entire section is 374 words.)
Biography (Ethics (Ready Reference series))
Muir moved to a Wisconsin homestead when he was eleven and attended the University of Wisconsin from 1858 to 1863. After a year of farming while waiting for a draft call, he decamped to stay in Canada from 1863 to 1864. In 1867, he began a full-time career in nature study, starting with a projected thousand-mile walk to the Gulf of Mexico on his way to South America. Frustrated by serious illness, he went to California and lived in the Yosemite Valley for five years. In 1873, he began a full-time career as a nature writer and preservationist, spending summers hiking and observing natural phenomena in the mountains. In 1889, Muir began writing and lobbying to preserve Yosemite Valley as a National Park. In 1896, as one of its founders, he became the first president of the Sierra Club; remaining in that position until 1914. He was preeminent in publicity and lobbying (1905-1913) against San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy water project. Although unsuccessful, this effort broadcast the preservationist ethic nationwide. Muir’s contributions to glaciology and geomorphology give him minor scientific status. He published more than 500 articles and essays, many of which were based on his mountaineering journals. His books include Mountains of California (1894), My First Summer in the Sierra (1911) and The Yosemite (1912).
Cohen, Michael P. The Pathless Way: John Muir and...
(The entire section is 440 words.)