JOHN MUIR.

by Unknown

John Muir was born at Dunbar, Scotland, April 21, 1838, and died at Los Angeles, California, December 24, 1914. He attended school before he had completed his third year of age, but even before this time his grandfather had taught him the letters of the alphabet upon the signs in the vicinity. He remained in the Scotch schools until he was eleven and made most valuable use of his time, as may be judged by his progress, especially in Latin. At the age of eleven he had to leave school to accompany his father to the new home in the forests of Wisconsin.

Upon their arrival in America after a voyage which was to John and his brother one constant round of happy experiences, there was no further opportunity for elementary schooling. His education became that of the toiler and he stored his mind with knowledge acquired from the observation of the plants and animals of the woods and lakes and from the association and study of the animals of the farm. He found opportunity to read the few books which came into his possession, but the strict regulation of the home made him read largely by snatches. His fertile brain was employed almost constantly in the matter of inventions. His duties on the farm comprised all activities from that of cultivating the fields to the building of houses and barns and the digging of wells. In his recent book "The Story of My Boyhood and Youth," he has graphically described his work of digging a well by chiselling for nearly eighty feet through the solid granite.

Muir remained on the farm until he had attained his majority. He then went to the capitol of the state to exhibit some of his wonderful inventions at the State Fair. This experience led to his employment in a shop in Prairie du Chien, where he worked part of the year. He then went to the University, where he earned his way during the four years of his course. He completed his course of study there with the class of 1864, and then, according to his own statement, he plunged immediately into the work of geologist, explorer, and naturalist. His work was quite largely in the Yosemite region of California and among the glaciers of the Sierras and Alaska. In the latter region during the year of 1881 he explored the glacier named after him. It was, however, his description of the Yosemite Valley that first brought him into prominence. He made an extended search for the De Long Arctic exploring party, which was lost in its effort to reach the far North. Later he travelled, part of the time in company with John Burroughs, through Hawaii, Russia, Siberia, Manchuria, India, Australasia, and South America.

No place, however, furnished him with such rich material about which to tell his thoughts as did his adopted home, California, and the newer Alaska. In the later years of his life his residence was at Martinez, California. He was married to Louise Strenzel in 1880. To them was born a daughter, Helen, who still lives in California and who was with her father at the time of his death.

While John Muir's experience as a pioneer in the forests of Wisconsin, reveals the severe hardships of that life, it reveals many of the joys as well, and shows that his active brain was open to all the avenues of self education. Field, forest, and lake were full of opportunities for him to observe and study, and as a result John and his brother, David, were fine naturalists, irrespective of books upon the subject. John's home life was rich in the companionship of brothers and sisters, and his mother was most sympathetic and helpful to him in his aspirations to know and to become the scholar.

The Scotch schools had given him such training as enabled him to use books as tools throughout his life. The necessities of the farm and home drove him to inventing means for getting things done. The result was that he soon became known as a genius, and this inventive work finally opened the way for his entrance into the University. So keen was John's desire to know and to invent that it became necessary for his father to drive him to bed too frequently, so he told the boy that if he wished to study, he should get up in the morning. John took his father at his word and managed to rise at two o'clock morning after morning to work upon his inventions. As a result of such efforts there was made a model of self-setting saw mill, a thermometer, clocks, an apparatus to get him up at the time desired, and later at the University a machine to make visible the growth of plants and the action of sunlight, a barometer, and a desk which automatically threw up, from a rack underneath, each book in the order of his studies during the day and withdrew it again when the time allotted for this study had expired. To accompany this wonderful invention, he furnished his bed with an adjustment that set him on his feet at the morning rising hour and at the same instant lighted his lamp. These seemingly incredible inventions are fully explained in "The Story of My Boyhood and Youth," Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913. So eagerly did he pursue knowledge for its own sake while he was in the University that the old janitor was proud to point out Muir's room to visitors many years after his departure.

So valuable has been the work of this investigating mind that Wisconsin, Harvard, and Yale Universities have deemed it a pleasure to confer upon John Muir honorary degrees. With his entire life devoted to research, he may truthfully be said to have been one of America's best educated men.

He contributed extensively to the organization of scientific clubs and to scientific magazines. He was much interested in forest reservation and did much towards the plans which the government now employs. His work in connection with government regulated parks has been invaluable.

As a writer Muir is one of the most interestingly instructive we have had. His language is clear and lucid and he has a message which he carries directly to the heart and mind of his reader. Besides his many magazine articles he has written the "Mountains of California," 1894; "Our National Parks," 1901; "Stickeen, the Story of a Dog," 1909; "My First Summer in the Sierra," 1911; "The Yosemite," 1912, and the "Story of My Boyhood and Youth," 1913. This last is one of the most interesting and inspiring books for young people that we have today.

The Muir homestead is twelve miles from Portage, Wisconsin. There were two farms, the Spring Fountain farm and the Hickory Hill farm. It is upon the latter that is found the well 90 feet deep, eighty feet of which John chiselled through solid granite.

To illustrate Muir's interesting manner of presenting his observations we are adding the following selections from "The Mountains of California," published by the Century Co.