Ten Cool Things About John Muir


Portrait of John Muir. Image credit:Sierra Club

As American environmental heroes go, John Muir was among the most fascinating - and I'm not just saying that because he founded the organization I work for, the Sierra Club, in 1892, and helped protect places like Yosemite. For instance, before he was a treehugger, he was an inventor who exhibited his work at a state fair. He was blinded in an accident but regained his sight. He was a world-traveler long before JetBlue. He's got a planet named after him. And, hey, he's on the California quarter!

In honor of his birthday on April 21, I bring you "Ten Cool Things About John Muir."1. When the U.S. Mint issued its collection of quarters representing each state, it put Muir on the coin for California, along with Yosemite's Half Dome and the California condor.

2. There's a bunch of stuff named after him, like numerous geographic places; a mineral, several plants, and some animals; and a whole planet! (Okay, so it's just a "minor planet" that's just one mile in diameter. Still cool, though.)
Links for mineral, plants, animals here are found here.

And for the minor planet: here.

And for geographic place names: here.

And finally, for Facebook group: here.

3. He was a Scottish guy! His family relocated to the U.S. (Wisconsin) when he was 11. His birth is the first of "Ten Milestones" tracked on this Google Earth map of his life.

4. Before he started saving the planet, he was an inventor. In fact, the Wisconsin State Journal wrote in 1860 about how his clocks on display at the state fair registered "not only hours but minutes, seconds, and days of the month." He also invented a desk that would retrieve a book, hold it in place for the prescribed period of time, and then automatically replace it with another book. See photos of his inventions here.

5. In 1867, when he was 29, he was blinded in a factory accident when his right eye was pierced by a file. Catharine Merrill, a woman who, "like an angel of light, with hope and cheer and sympathy purely divine," helped him regain his sight.

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