The John Muir Exhibit features the life
and contributions of John Muir:
naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club.
Who was John Muir?
John Muir (1838-1914) was America's most famous and influential naturalist
and conservationist. He is one of California's most important historical personalities.
He has been called "The Father of our National Parks," "Wilderness Prophet," and "Citizen
of the Universe." He once described himself more humorously, and perhaps most
accurately, as, a "poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist
etc. etc. !!!!" Legendary librarian and author Lawrence Clark Powell (1906-2001),
(anticipating an event that was not to occur until 2006), said of him: "If
I were to choose a single Californian to occupy the Hall
of Fame, it would be this tenacious Scot who became a Californian during
the final forty-six years of his life."
As a wilderness explorer, he is renowned for his exciting adventures in California's
Sierra Nevada, among Alaska's glaciers, and world wide travels in search of
nature's beauty. As a writer, he taught the people of his time and ours the
importance of experiencing and protecting our natural heritage. His writings
contributed greatly to the creation of Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified
Forest, and Grand Canyon National Parks. Dozens of places are
named after John Muir, including the Muir Woods National Monument, the John
Muir Trail, Muir College (UCSD), and many schools.
His words and deeds helped inspire President Theodore Roosevelt's innovative
conservation programs, including establishing the first National Monuments
by Presidential Proclamation, and Yosemite National Park by congressional action.
In 1892, John Muir and other supporters formed the Sierra Club "to make the
mountains glad." John Muir was the Club's first president, an office he held
until his death in 1914. Muir's Sierra Club has gone on to help establish a
series of new National Parks and a National Wilderness Preservation System.
Muir's last battle to save the second Yosemite, Hetch
Hetchy Valley, failed. But that lost battle ultimately resulted in a
widespread conviction that our national parks should be held inviolate. Many
proposals to dam our national parks since that time have been stopped because
of the efforts of citizens inspired by John Muir, and today there are legitimate
proposals to restore Hetch Hetchy. John Muir remains today an inspiration
for environmental activists everywhere.
John Muir's life reminds us of the important things that just one person can do:
"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 in a ( recent Sierra Magazine interview).
John Muir is as relevant today as he was over 100 years ago when he met with
President Theodore Roosevelt in Yosemite. Many of today's headlines have Muir
to thank for their inspiration. See our Chronology
of of the Life and Legacy of John Muir, 1838 - 2010.
A few examples:
- On April 9, 2010, The Scottish Government and Sierra Club held a special
tree planting ceremony for
A Celebration of the Treasured Life and Legacy of
Honored Son of Scotland and Sierra Club Founder at the Dr. Edgar and Peggy
Wayburn Redwood Grove, The Presidio, San Francisco, followed
by a special presentation on John Muir’s Legacy in a Climate-Challenged
with featured speakers Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club, and Michael
Russell, Scotland's Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning and former
minister for the environment.
- On April 5, 2010, Scotland's Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning
and former minister for the environment, Michael Russell in an editorial, Prizing
the Power of the Sea said, "Muir
was never deterred by those naysayers who thought his idealism misplaced.
He won many battles, and some he lost. But he built movements for change
that inspired millions, forced political leaders to join his cause and changed
not only hearts, but minds. Muir was always more than an idealistic naturalist;
he was a persuasive advocate, as adept as any politician at winning public
support. Muir would have been excited by the prospect that the natural resources
around us may actually be the key to solving the climate crisis. The potential
of wind, solar and wave energy to produce renewable, clean sources of power
and reduce our dependency on methods that damage our environmental future
should be at the top of our list of solutions. Read
- Documentary film maker Kern Burns
knew little about John
Muir before he
started working on his long-anticipated new series "The
National Parks: America's Best Idea," which premiered September
27, 2009 on PBS. Burns said, "Muir's "new creed of nature" was
expressed in writings "so transcendent that millions of Americans are
still beguiled and inspired by the rapture flowing from his words." Burns
was not aware of this when he began the project, stating in an interview: "It's
such a great thing to be hit over the head while making a film. I don't think
I was prepared for what a great writer he was. Mark Twain said the
difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference
between lightning and a lightning bug. John Muir was lightning.
My eyes, at times, would fill with tears in the editing room as we worked
on telling Muir's story. It was a pleasure
getting to know him better."
- "The roots of the Sierra Club are embedded in land preservation, and
nowadays that puts our focus on finding a solution to climate change; if
we don't fix that problem, there will be no land to preserve, and no future
generations to preserve it for. But something rather traditional happened
on Monday that would make our founder, John Muir, very pleased
indeed. That's the day President Obama signed the most extensive lands protection
bill in 20 years, a bill that includes all of the Clinton/Babbitt-era national
monuments, wilderness study areas, and other sites, totaling 26 million acres." -
Greg Haegele (April 3, 2009) read
- March 26, 2009 - the Clark County Columbian newspaper editorializes
that "even though the founder of the Sierra Club died almost 95 years
ago, his spirit was alive on Wednesday in the halls of Congress. The House
approved landmark legislation that will trigger one of the largest expansions
of American wilderness in a quarter-century.... John
Muir - a naturalist
so revered he is shown on the California state quarter - had no trouble describing
the wilderness. It's a place where the "sun shines not on us, but in
us. The rivers flow not past but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating … the
very stones seem talkative and brotherly. One fancies a heart like our own
must be beating in every crystal and cell. No wonder when we consider that
we all have the same Father and Mother." Muir likely would say Wednesday's
sun was shining not on Congress but in it; the rivers flowed not past Congress
but through it."
- In September, 2008, Photographer Stephen Joseph
and historian Bonnie Gisel publish Nature's
Beloved Son: Rediscovering John Muir's Botanical Legacy, and in October,
Historian Donald Worster publish a new biography, A
Passion for Nature: the Life of John Muir,
- A 2007 Time magazine special on "The
Greening of the Pentagon" reported: "In a recent paper, former
CIA Director James Woolsey imagined a dialogue between John
Muir, the founder
of the Sierra Club, and General George Patton on climate change. In Woolsey's
telling, Muir cares about the environment, and Patton about security, but
in subject after subject -- alternative energy, increasing efficiency,
improving the electrical grid -- they come to the same green conclusion,
if for different reasons. 'It just happens that the two ideas produce the
same outcome,' says Woolsey. 'There is something there for everybody.' "
- On October 16, 2006, two Silicon Valley leaders issued this statement about
how John Muir can be an inspiration for us as we fight the
climate crisis and promote smart energy solutions: "John Muir said
nearly a century ago, 'When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find
it hitched to everything else in the Universe.' That's the good news. It
means that each of us can address overwhelming challenges, complex issues
and diffuse responsibilities by taking action. It means we can do it both
right now and right here. And it is especially true, and convenient, as we
look at what we must do as individuals, businesses, communities and governments
to develop alternative-energy solutions to tackle issues ranging from reducing
America's dependence on foreign oil to taking on global climate change....
As Muir pointed out, it is all connected. Business success, quality of life
and a sustainable environment are not in opposition. They are related, and
we can make positive progress in each area together. Each of us. Here. Now.
That's the necessary truth that, fortunately, is also convenient." ["Seeking
Alternative Energy Solutions: A Convenient Truth," by
Aart de Geus and Carl Guardino (San Francisco Chronicle, October
- On July 31, 2006, John Muir
was Inducted in the new
California Hall of Fame of the California Museum of History, Women, and the
- In June, 2006, a Minor Planet
was named for John Muir
- This 1-mile diameter celestial body, now named "Johnmuir" is
Solar System object number 2004PX42. It was named by its discoverer, amateur
astronomer R.E. Jones, in honor of our pioneer conservationist.
- From April 2, 2006 to May 14, 2006, Peter and Donna Thomas re-traced
John Muir's 1868 walking trip from San Francisco to Yosemite.
- On March 32 - April 1, 2006, the John Muir in Global
was sponsored by the University of the Pacific, its sixth conference
focused on John Muir.
- In January, 2006, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum announced
Muir was inducted in the Hall of Great Westerners.
- On January 31, 2005, The new California State Quarter featuring John
Muir was released by the U.S. Mint as California's
entry in its 50 State Quarter program.
John Muir's vision is still sorely needed.
"Today, as much as when legislation was passed to create
Yosemite, we need to remember Muir's call to protect wild
places. He profoundly believed that preserving natural
areas nurtured the human spirit as well. I hope you will
join me in celebrating the birth and legacy of the
American visionary, John Muir."
- U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (April 17, 2002)
For more information about Muir's life and legacy, start with our Life and Contributions of John Muir page. Also, download our John Muir - Father of Our National Parks brochure (2.5 MB, in PDF format) summarizing Muir's life and including recommended reading, audio, and video references.
What's on this Website
This website contains a wide variety of resources pertaining to
John Muir. The links on the left will take you to many fascinating places!
This site is continually being updated and new additions are being made on a
regular basis. Check our
What's New page. Details about this website, including acknowledgements and off-site links, are provided on Website Resources.
In particular, please note our extensive Educational Resources, assisting both teachers and students from grade school to graduate school, from home-schoolers to life-long learners of all ages.
To keep current on upcoming events celebrating or inspired by John Muir, join
This award-winning website is a volunteer effort of the
John Muir Education Committee.
We welcome volunteer contributions to this effort, so the John Muir Exhibit can continue to be the most comprehensive resource about John Muir on the Internet! We express our gratitude to our volunteer contributors on our Acknowledgements page. If you would like to volunteer, please review the information about the Sierra Club John Muir Education Committee and contact the Webmaster,
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Last updated: April 9, 2010