The Story of My Boyhood and Youth is the affecting memoir of the now internationally renowned John Muir, a Scottish-American boy subject to a most unusual upbringing, his transition into adulthood, and the path that led him to petition for the concept of protected national parks.
Born in East Lothian, Scotland in 1838, Muir was raised by a fanatically strict, religious father with his numerous brothers and sisters and loving mother. From an early age, a shy Muir showed fascination with the natural world, and at aged eleven, his father announced the family were to move to an American wilderness in Wisconsin – Muir had a new playground.
His adolescence is spent labouring on the family's grassroots farm. Working seventeen-hour days, an exhausted yet inquisitive Muir desperately snatches moments to himself, yearning to explore the environment around him, secretly studying books on topics other than religion, and rising at 1 a.m. to pursue his hobby of inventing intricate time and energy-saving devices – much to his father's disapproval and everyone else's admiration.
At age twenty-two, Muir takes it upon himself to apply to university, and does so without financial or moral support from his father. He makes his way to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study chemistry and botany, and though never graduating with a degree, he is satisfied that he had learned all he wanted to there, before completing the rest of his nature education in 'the university of the wilderness'.
The Story of My Boyhood and Youth includes a new foreword by Terry Gifford, and offers insight into the development of Muir's spiritual connection with the natural world, and suggests an explanation for his passion for freedom in the wilderness, a stark contrast to the forced rigidity of his early years.
Series introduction by Terry Gifford
Foreword by Terry Gifford
1 A Boyhood in Scotland
2 A New World
3 Life on a Wisconsin Farm
4 A Paradise of Birds
5 Young Hunters
6 The Ploughboy
7 Knowledge and Inventions
8 The World and the University
Born in 1838, John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and ahead-of-his-time advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. Muir's works tell of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada of California. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other exquisite wilderness areas. He founded The Sierra Club, and petitioned the US Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite National Park. The 211-mile John Muir Trail – a hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada – was named in his honour, as was the John Muir Way in Scotland, and many other places including a beach, college and glacier. Muir married Louisa Strentzel and they had two daughters together, living on a fruit orchard in California. Today he is referred to as the 'Father of the National Parks' and has a legacy as one of the most influential naturalists in America.