John Muir

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John Muir (1838 - 1914) was a Scottish-born American naturalist and conservationist who is widely considered to be the founder of the modern environmental movement. A prolific writer, he authored several books and was instrumental in mobilizing public opinion in support of national conservation policies, in particular the establishment of the first national forest reserves and national parks in the United States.

Muir's boyhood and adolescence, guided by the stern religious zeal of his father, were divided between his native Scotland and a small farm in Wisconsin to which the family emigrated in 1849. After attending the University of Wisconsin, where he studied botany and geology (but without taking a degree), Muir pursued his interests in invention of mechanical devices until an industrial accident nearly deprived him of an eye.

Following this, Muir abandoned his industrial career and, finding at last his true calling, devoted himself to nature, undertaking over the remainder of his life extensive travels and explorations in the western United States, Canada, Alaska, and elsewhere. But his chief fame rests upon his life and writings related to the Sierra Nevada mountains and Yosemite Valley of California, where he lived for the next half dozen years, conducting exploratioins, gathering botanical specimens, making sketches, and engaging in geological studies.

After settling down on a horticultural farm in California, Muir became a prolific writer and one of the nation's most influential advocates of the new conservation movement which resulted in the establishment of the national forest reserves and the national park system. Among his major works, in addition to numerous magazine articles, are The Mountains of California (his first book, published in 1894)), My First Summer in the Sierra, and The Yosemite.

In 1892, he co-founded the Sierra Club and served as its first President until his death in 1914.

Throughout his later life, Muir was guided by the central insight that mankind needed to exercise an overall forebearance towards the natural world.