April 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, John Burroughs

He wrote 23 books, was very popular and well-connected during his own time, and was important in the American conservation movement—and I don't remember ever hearing about him!

Born on this day in 1837, in New York, Burroughs grew up to become the Grand Old Man of Nature. He wrote about the Catskill Mountains, fly fishing, birds and bees, flowers and trees, and all things natural. He hung out with Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford (who gave him a car, as a gift!), John Muir, Walt Whitman, and Harvey Firestone. He traveled to Alaska with scientists, artists and photographers, and he wrote about the expedition and his other travels. He wrote about science, including controversial topics: he disagreed with the (relatively) new-fangled idea of evolution through natural selection (but now that truck-loads and mountains of evidence have accumulated, we know he was wrong). He lived to be 84 years old.

Burroughs wrote in 1912:

"We can use our scientific knowledge to improve and beautify the earth, or we can use it to...poison the air, corrupt the waters, blacken the face of the country, and harass our souls with loud and discordant noises, [or]...we can use it to mitigate or abolish all these things."

He called his cabin Slabsides.
Links I Like

Here is a short story written by Burroughs. It's really interesting!

A natural history society is named after him and runs field trips, lectures, and a newsletter. If you live in New York, check it out

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