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Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Muir, John (1838-1914)

naturalist and conservationist

In 1892 Muir founded the conservationist Sierra Club, and was its president until his death from pneumonia in Los Angeles on Christmas eve 1914. He left an estate of almost $250,000 and was buried in Martinez at the Strentzel family cemetery. He lived to see the Hetch-Hetchy valley, part of his beloved Yosemite (where he is memorialized), flooded to become a reservoir for the city of San Francisco, despite his efforts to prevent this, but he was spared the agony of world war. In 1903 he had camped out in Yosemite with Theodore Roosevelt, during the latter's presidency of the United States. A well-known photograph shows them together atop Glacier Point. In 1909, still thin, tangle-bearded, and scruffy, Muir served as Yosemite guide to William Howard Taft, also during the latter's presidency. More national parks came into being as a result. Muir received an honorary master's degree from Harvard in 1896 and honorary doctorates from Wisconsin (1897), Yale (1911), and California (1913). During the 1980s Muir was voted the most important person in the history of California; he is commemorated there and in Alaska by dozens of place names. His birthday, 21 April, is a California holiday (with Earth day following). His home at Martinez, 4202 Alhambra Avenue, is now a national historic site. In 1984 a John Muir trust was founded in his home town of Dunbar, Scotland.

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OUP Books

A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir

Donald Worster

In Donald Worster's magisterial biography, John Muir's "special self" is fully explored as is his extraordinary ability, then and now, to get others to see the sacred beauty of the natural world. A Passion for Nature is the most complete account of the great conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club ever written.

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