• 1838 - Born Dunbar, Scotland
  • 1849 - Family emigrated to Wisconsin
  • 1861 - Studied the natural sciences at the University of Wisconsin, but did not take a degree
  • 1864 - Moves to Canada for 2 years.
  • 1867 - Blinded by a factory accident. After weeks of agony his sight returns. Muir decides to leave factory work to study nature.
  • 1868 - Went to California and began 40 years of intermittent wandering in the wilderness of North America, which produced some of the best nature writing in the English language.
  • 1869 - Spends "first summer in the sierra" as a summer shepherd at Tuolumne Meadows in the High Sierra Nevada Mountains.
        - Makes the first ascent of Cathedral Peak in what is now Yosemite National Park.
  • 1871 - Ralph Waldo Emerson visits Muir in Yosemite.
        - New York Tribune publishes Muir's first article from California, titled "Yosemite Glaciers"
  • 1873 - Solo-climbs Mount Whitney (14,500 ft.), the first recorded ascent by an eastern route.
  • 1875 - Lives in Bay Area writing magazine articles
  • 1880 - Moves back to California following his marriage to Louisa Wanda (Louie) Strentzel, after working in Nevada, Utah, and Colorado, and visiting Alaska for the first time
  • 1890 - Petitioned congress for establishing Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park.
  • 1892 - Established the Sierra Club
  • 1903 - President Theodore Roosevelt spends 3 days and nights camping alone with Muir in Yosemite.
        Muir becomes a U.S. citizen
  • 1907 - Muir start fight to save Hetch Hetchy Valley from a planned dam to supply San Francisco with water
  • 1908 - Theodore Roosevelt proclaims Muir Woods National Monument , named after Muir by request of the donor of the land, William Kent.
  • 1913 - Battle for Hetch Hetchy Valley is lost
  • 1914 - Muir dies
  • 2005 - The California quarter released featuring an image of John Muir admiring Half Dome

"If you think about all the gains our society has made, from independence to now, it wasn't government. It was activism. People think, 'Oh, Teddy Roosevelt established Yosemite National Park, what a great president.' BS. It was John Muir who invited Roosevelt out and then convinced him to ditch his security and go camping. It was Muir, an activist, a single person."
-- Patagonia founder and outdoor enthusiast Yvon Chouinard
To those who thought him impractical and visionary, it is only necessary to point out his early skill as an inventor, which, if continued, would have made him world famous, or to his success as an orchardist, making his friends, the trees, bear as they had never been known to bear before or since. But these activities were chosen mainly because they seemed the duty of the hour and when finished were left for the nobler pursuits that lay nearest his heart.

His true position as a geologist will never be adequately recognized because his writings on his geological studies were so minimized by contrast with that greater field of beautiful literature in which he excelled. But any one who has read his "Studies in the Sierra", and who realizes that his views on glaciation as bearing on the origin of Yosemite Valley were written at a time when geologists of great eminence were advancing other theories, and had no patience with any glacial theory, will appreciate that John Muir was no ordinary student of the physical laws of nature. I ran across the following extract from a little pamphlet on the Yosemite, published in 1872:

"There is and has been for two years past, living in the Valley, a gentleman of Scottish parentage, by name John Muir, who, Hugh Miller like, is studying the rocks in and around the Valley. He told me that he was trying to read the great work spread out before him. He is by himself pursuing a course of geological studies, and is making careful drawings of the different parts of the gorge. No doubt he is more thoroughly acquainted with this valley than any one else. He has been far up the Sierras where glaciers are now in action, ploughing deep depressions in the mountains. He has made a critical examination of the superincumbent rocks, and already has made much material upon which to form a correct theory."
William E. Colby, Sierra Club Secretary under Muir.

President Bill Clinton said "One of the Americans who inspired Theodore Roosevelt to conserve our nation's forests was the naturalist John Muir, who once said, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread - places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." In today's fast-paced, high-tech world, Muir's words are even more compelling."

Muir is on the California Quarter.

The Mountains of California, Our National Parks, My First Summer in the Sierra, Steep Trails, Stickeen
A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf
Steep Trails
The Life and Letters of John Muir , edited by William F. Bade

Sierra Club:
  - Exhibit
  - Chronology (Timeline) of the Life and Legacy of John Muir
  - Quotations from John Muir

Return to People

last updated 21 July 2010