John Muir was a dreamer and an activist. He inspired many to experience nature through his writings. His philosophy that "wild is better" shaped greatly the preservation movement, protecting Yosemite as a National Park. The Sierra Club has established more National Parks after his death, with his legacy leading to a club with over 2.4 million members. April 21 is a day dedicated to John Muir in California. Many parks, peaks, and monuments take the name "Muir" in his honor. John Muir is the patron saint of American Wilderness.

John Muir seated on rock with lake and trees in background
John Muir seated on rock with lake and trees in background

Here's a time line of John Muir's life:

  • 1838 - John Muir is born in Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland.
  • 1849 - Muir's family immigrated to the United States, starting a farm near Portage, Wisconsin, called Fountain Lake Farm.
  • 1860 - When he was 22 years old, Muir enrolled at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. There, under a towering black locust tree beside North Hall, Muir took his first botany lesson.
  • 1864 - Left school and travelled to the Southern Ontario region, and spent the spring, summer, and fall exploring the woods and swamps, and collecting plants
  • 1866 - Returned to the United States, settling in Indianapolis to work in a wagon wheel factory.
  • 1867 - An accident changed the course of his life: a tool he was using slipped and struck him in the eye. When regained his sight, he noted that This affliction has driven me to the sweet fields. God has to nearly kill us sometimes, to teach us lessons. From that point on, he was determined to follow his dream of exploration and study of plants.
  • 1867 - Undertook a walk of about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from Kentucky to Florida.
  • 1868 - Moved to San Francisco, California and immediately left for a week-long visit to Yosemite.
  • 1871 - Ralph Waldo Emerson met Muir in Yosemite. Emerson spent one day with Muir, and he offered him a teaching position at Harvard, which Muir declined.
  • 1871 - Discovered an active alpine glacier below Merced Peak, which helped his theories that glaciers had sculpted many of the features of the Yosemite Valley and surrounding area gain acceptance.
  • 1879 - First traveled Mr. Young (Fort Wrangell missionary) to Alaska along with a group of Native American Guides. They were the first Euro-Americans to explore Glacier Bay
  • 1880 - Married to Louisa Strentzel and had two daughters. He went into business for 10 years with his father-in-law managing the orchards on the family 2600 acre farm in Martinez, California.
  • 1881 - Was with the party that landed on Wrangel Island on the USS Corwin and claimed that island for the United States
  • 1889 - The influential associate editor of The Century magazine, Robert Underwood Johnson, camped with Muir in Tuolumne Meadows and saw firsthand the damage a large flock of sheep had done to the grassland
  • 1890 - The U.S. Congress passed a bill that essentially followed recommendations that Muir had suggested in two Century articles, "The Treasures of the Yosemite" and "Features of the Proposed National Park"
  • 1892 - The first meeting of the Sierra Club, which was formed by Professor Henry Senger, a philologist at the University of California, Berkeley, was held to write articles of incorporation. One week later Muir was elected president and remained in this position until his death.
  • 1895 - Muir, Joseph LeConte, and William R. Dudley, the Sierra Club discussed the idea of establishing 'national forest reservations', which were later called National Forests.
  • 1897 - Friendship ended with Pinchot, was the first head of the United States Forest Service and a leading spokesman for the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of the people, after Pinchot released a statement supporting sheep grazing in forest reserves
  • 1903 - President Theodore Roosevelt accompanied Muir on a visit to Yosemite. Muir was able to convince Roosevelt that the best way to protect the valley was through federal control and management.
  • 1906 - California ceded back to the federal government Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove.
  • 1914 - Died at California Hospital (now California Hospital Medical Center) in Los Angeles of pneumonia at age 76
Lying out at night under those giant Sequoias was like lying in a temple built by no hand of man, a temple grander than any human architect could by any possibility build.
-President Theodore Roosevelt, speaking about the camping trip with Muir in Yosemite Valley

If you have time, you should read more about this incredible human being on his Wikipedia entry.