From Publishers Weekly
Environmental writer and professor Worster (Dust Bowl, Nature's Economy) presents the inspiring story of John Muir, who rebelled against orthodoxy and became one of the founders of modern environmentalism. Born in 1838 in Scotland, Muir's family emigrated to Wisconsin when he was ten. For the next 12 years, he labored on his family's farm, then left home to become a machinist and enroll in a University of Wisconsin botany course. His main interest, however, was exploring the remaining wilderness of the U.S. Finally settling in California, Muir mastered botany on his own, and by 1871 was providing the Smithsonian with regular reports of his findings. While continuing his travels, including several trips to Alaska, Muir wrote articles for local and national journals urging conservation, and was elected the first president of the Sierra Club in 1892, a position he would hold for the rest of his life. Worster's thorough, involving biography sets Muir's adventurous story against the technical and scientific culture of the day, featuring some of the period's leading thinkers and doers-including Ralph Waldo Emerson and President Theodore Roosevelt-taking on environmental issues that resonate now more than ever.
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*Starred Review* It’s not enough to say that John Muir was the world’s leading advocate for wilderness or that he was instrumental in the creation of Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Club. Worster, who has also written a biography of John Wesley Powell, knows that to fully appreciate Muir as an inspired and influential naturalist and pacifist who wrote indelible essays articulating a pragmatic approach to conservation, one has to understand his struggle to push beyond his father’s harsh evangelical Christian orthodoxy and open himself to the beauty of nature. Born in Scotland, raised in Wisconsin, Muir possessed a remarkable mechanical aptitude but was happiest wandering in the wild. Worster avidly chronicles Muir’s inaugural walk from Indianapolis to Florida and his subsequent journeys around the world, but it was his ecstatic, often reckless, yet profoundly illuminating explorations of the Sierras and Alaska’s glaciers that gave weight to his call to value and preserve natural resources. Worster gives equal weight to Muir’s inner and outer journeys in this marvelously fluent portrait of the man who sought to establish an ethic of environmental restraint a century ago and whose powerful arguments still hold. --Donna Seaman