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Charles Darwin

1809 - 1882

Charles Darwin
  • Biologist who first published the theory of evolution in his book The Origin of the Species (1859).
  • Muir was a great admirer of Darwin, reading his books early in life and again later. According to Roderick Nash, Muir may have read Darwin as early as 1867, prompting Muir to write in his journal, "This star, This star, our own good earth, made many a successful journey around the heavens ere man was made, and whole kingdoms of creatures enjoyed existence and returned to dust ere man appeared to claim them." In 1871, Muir received a volume of Darwin from an acquitance, John D. Runkle, the founder of M.I.T. Years later, Muir recorded in his diary that he was reading Darwin after his January 1904 visit to New Zealand.
  • Of Darwin, who he once referred to as "grand old Darwin", Muir accepted evolution, but rejected "Darwin's mean ungodly word "struggle."" in favor of a principle of divine guidance. (Muir letter to Asa Gray dated February 22nd, 1873.) Nonetheless, Muir ultimately seemed to have embraced Darwin: "His noble character has suffered from silly, ignorant, and unbelieving men who say much about Darwinism without really knowing anything about it. A more devout and indefatigable seeker after truth than Darwin never lived." (Muir letter to A.K. Bidwell, Feb. 1, 1878, Bidwell Family Papers, quoted in Stephen Fox, John Muir and His Legacy: The American Conservation Movement p. 82.
  • Like his friends Asa Gray and Joseph LeConte, for Muir, the idea of accepting evolution did not deny Deity. He reportedly told an interviewer, "Somewhere, before evolution was, was an Intelligence that laid out the plan, and evolution is the process, not the origin, of the harmony." (Fox, 82.; French Strother, "Three Days with John Muir" The World's Work, v. 17, no. 5, Mar., 1909, pp 11355-11358). (off-site link to John Muir Papers at University of the Pacific)

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