Monday, September 27, 2010

Some Men Who Loved Nature: Part 3

Guest post by Jerilee Wei
(click here to view Parts 1, 2, and 4)

Great naturalists are also great spokesmen and great conservationists, long after their time on this earth. Three of those naturalists that contributed the most to the American public are John Macoun, John Muir, and John Burroughs. They are naturalists who are still making a difference today.

Let's Take A Look At Their Lives And Contributions

John Macoun
John McCoun and son
The distinguished Canadian explorer and naturalist, John Macoun (183201920) was born in Ireland, but migrated to Canada when he was eighteen. After a few years of farming he became a school teacher, at a salary of fourteen dollars a month. In his spare time, he studied the different sciences, but his special love was studying plants.

When an expedition was sent across the prairies and the Rocky Mountains to find a route for the Canadian Pacific Railway, Macoun went along as a botanist. In the following years he made journeys of scientific exploration all over Canada from the Yukon to Nova Scotia.

His two sons, William and James, were often his companions and scientific co-workers. Macoun's collection of animals and plants were the foundation for the Victoria Memoral Museum in Ottawa. Other scientists honored Macoun by naming species of plants, insects, and fish after him.

John Muir
One of the policies of which both the United States and Canada are most proud is the establishment of national parks to save some of the marvelous beauties of nature for the people of all time to come. A great fighter in this cause was John Muir, born at Dunbar, Scotland, in 1838.

When he was eleven years old, the family came to America and settled on a backwoods farm in Wisconsin. John plowed, chopped down trees, and did all the other kinds of farm work, and enjoyed it. However, even while plowing he was also enjoying the beauty of wild flowers and trees, and the antics of wild creatures. John was the best plowman in the neighborhood. Once he dug a ninety-foot well without assistance.

John Muir
John's father had very different notions about reading from those of other Scotsmen, like the father of William Dawson. Muir's father objected to his boy's sitting up late at night to read. However, he finally told John that he might get up as early as he pleased and read then. So John would get up at one o'clock in the morning and read, or work on mechanical inventions until time for the day's work to begin.

When John entered the University of Wisconsin, he had to provide his own living expenses. He often lived on fifty cents a week. An accident nearly blinded him after leaving the university. This determined him to travel and see as much of "God's beauty" as he could before what was left of his sight was completely gone. Fortunately, he did not lose his sight.

In his travels Muir wandered through thousands of miles of prairie, mountain, and forest. He tramped the Sierra Nevada Mountains until they were as familiar to him as the farm where he was raised. Muir's journeys were made for his own pleasure, not to get material for books.

After his marriage to Louise Wanda Strentzel, the daughter of a Polish revolutionist, he took up fruit farming. Near the end of his life he began to write books that make all nature lovers want to repeat Muir's wanderings.

Muir Woods, a forest of gigantic redwoods across the bay from San Francisco and Muir Glacier in Alaska are named for John Muir. It was largely due to Muir that the Yosemite Valley became a national park.

Muir did not dislike city life, in fact, he had considerable inventive genius and liked the turmoil of factories. It was simply that he loved nature more. Several universities invited Muir to accept professorships, but his reply was always that there were already too many men teaching things that they had learned out of books. He died in 1914.

John Burroughs
When President Theodore Roosevelt took a trip through Yellowstone National Park, he chose as a companion, one of America's best loved students of nature. This was John Burroughs, called "John o'Birds" by his friends.

Burroughs was born near Roxbury, New York, in 1837. In his youth he tried farming, fruit raising, teaching, journalism, and then for nine years was a clerk in the Treasury Department at Washington, D.C. During all these years he spent his spare time in studying nature and in writing about it.

In Washington, he became friends with Walt Whitman, and his first book was Note on Walt Whitman As Poet and Person.

John Burroughs and Teddy Roosevelt
Beginning with Wake Robin in 1871, Burroughs published a series of books on flowers, birds, and other wildlife that have caused him to be regarded as the successor of Thoreau as a writer on nature.

Later in life, Burroughs engaged in fruit farming at West Park, New York, where he worked in a cabin built on a hill near his house. This cabin, Slabsides, became a center for visitors from all over the world. Burroughs died in 1921.
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