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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index M > John Muir Quotes

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John Muir
(21 Apr 1838 - 24 Dec 1914)

Scottish-American naturalist, farmer, explorer, writer and conservationist.


Science Quotes by John Muir (18 quotes)

John Muir standing at Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley (1903)
John Muir on Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, California, in 1903
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A man, in his books, may be said to walk the earth a long time after he is gone.
— John Muir
Quoted, without citation, in John Muir and Edwin Way Teale (ed.) The Wilderness World of John Muir (1954, 2001), Introduction, xx.
Science quotes on:  |  Book (100)  |  Earth (250)  |  Man (258)  |  Time (170)  |  Walk (24)

Although I was four years at the University [of Wisconsin], I did not take the regular course of studies, but instead picked out what I thought would be most useful to me, particularly chemistry, which opened a new world, mathematics and physics, a little Greek and Latin, botany and and geology. I was far from satisfied with what I had learned, and should have stayed longer.
[Enrolled in Feb 1861, left in 1863 without completing a degree, and began his first botanical foot journey.]
— John Muir
The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913), 286.
Science quotes on:  |  Botany (30)  |  Chemistry (143)  |  Geology (145)  |  Greek (17)  |  Latin (9)  |  Mathematics (367)  |  Physics (156)  |  University (29)

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed,—chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. During a man's life only saplings can be grown, in the place of the old trees—tens of centuries old—that have been destroyed.
— John Muir
In 'The American Forests', Atlantic Monthly (Aug 1897), Vol. 80, 157.
Science quotes on:  |  Backbone (3)  |  Bark (3)  |  Branch (23)  |  Chase (5)  |  Destruction (52)  |  Dollar (11)  |  Fool (32)  |  Forest (54)  |  Fun (15)  |  Hide (13)  |  Horn (5)  |  Hunt (5)  |  Life (460)  |  Magnificence (4)  |  Noble (14)  |  Plant (96)  |  Primeval (7)  |  Run (9)  |  Tree (88)

Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.
— John Muir
As stated in Frederick W. Turner, John Muir: Rediscovering America (2000), 193. Also seen as “Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world,” in Thomas N. Taylor, Edith L. Taylor, Michael Krings, Paleobotany: the Biology and Evolution of Fossil Plants (2009), 805. “Between every two pines stood the door to the world's greatest cathedral,” in Robert Adrian de Jauralde Hart, Forest Gardening: Cultivating an Edible Landscape (1996), xi. Please contact Webmaster if you know the primary source and Muir's exact wording.
Science quotes on:  |  Cathedral (9)  |  Door (13)  |  Lead (33)  |  Life (460)  |  New (107)  |  Pine (6)  |  Tree (88)  |  Way (31)

Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.
[Muir was aghast that the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite was to be flooded by the O'Shaughnessy Dam to provide water for San Francisco. Muir lost this land conservation battle; the dam was completed in 1914.]
— John Muir
Closing remark in The Yosemite (1912), 262.
Science quotes on:  |  Cathedral (9)  |  Church (16)  |  Consecration (2)  |  Dam (2)  |  Heart (46)  |  Holiness (2)  |  Tank (2)  |  Temple (12)  |  Valley (10)  |  Water (122)

Going to the woods is going home.
— John Muir
In Our National Parks (1901), 98.
Science quotes on:  |  Home (19)  |  Woods (4)

I have enjoyed the trees and scenery of Kentucky exceedingly. How shall I ever tell of the miles and miles of beauty that have been flowing into me in such measure? These lofty curving ranks of lobing, swelling hills, these concealed valleys of fathomless verdure, and these lordly trees with the nursing sunlight glancing in their leaves upon the outlines of the magnificent masses of shade embosomed among their wide branches—these are cut into my memory to go with me forever.
— John Muir
Letter, written 'among the hills of Bear Creek, seven miles southeast of Burkesville, Kentucky'(Sep 1867). In John Muir and William Frederick Badι (Ed.), A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), xix. This was by far Muir's longest botanical excursion made in his earlier years.
Science quotes on:  |  Branch (23)  |  Excursion (4)  |  Forever (14)  |  Hill (14)  |  Kentucky (3)  |  Lofty (4)  |  Memory (42)  |  Mile (11)  |  Scenery (4)  |  Shade (7)  |  Sunlight (9)  |  Tree (88)  |  Valley (10)

I have seen oaks of many species in many kinds of exposure and soil, but those of Kentucky excel in grandeur all I had ever before beheld. They are broad and dense and bright green. In the leafy bowers and caves of their long branches dwell magnificent avenues of shade, and every tree seems to be blessed with a double portion of strong exulting life.
— John Muir
Notebook entry, (2 Sep 1867). In A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), xix. This was the first day of Muir's journey, which he had began at Louisville, Kentucky.
Science quotes on:  |  Branch (23)  |  Grandeur (11)  |  Kentucky (3)  |  Leaf (22)  |  Oak (7)  |  Shade (7)  |  Tree (88)

I wandered away on a glorious botanical and geological excursion, which has lasted nearly fifty years and is not yet completed, always happy and free, poor and rich, without thought of a diploma or of making a name, urged on and on through endless, inspiring Godful beauty.
[Shortly after leaving university in 1863, without completing a degree, at age 25, he began his first botanical foot journey along the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi.]
— John Muir
The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913), 286.
Science quotes on:  |  Beauty (88)  |  Botany (30)  |  Diploma (2)  |  Excursion (4)  |  Freedom (41)  |  Geology (145)  |  Nature (534)  |  Wander (7)

I was a few miles south of Louisville when I planned my journey. I spread out my map under a tree and made up my mind to go through Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia to Florida, thence to Cuba, thence to some part of South America; but it will be only a hasty walk. I am thankful, however, for so much.
— John Muir
Letter, written 'among the hills of Bear Creek, seven miles southeast of Burkesville, Kentucky'(Sep 1867). In John Muir and William Frederick Badι (Ed.), A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), xix-xx. Illness, probably malarial, contracted in Florida caused him to cut short his plans in Cuba. Forty-four years passed before he made the journey to South America, in 1911.
Science quotes on:  |  Excursion (4)  |  Georgia (2)  |  Hasty (3)  |  Journey (11)  |  Kentucky (3)  |  Plan (40)  |  South America (4)  |  Tennessee (2)  |  Walk (24)

In studying the fate of our forest king, we have thus far considered the action of purely natural causes only; but, unfortunately, man is in the woods, and waste and pure destruction are making rapid headway. If the importance of the forests were even vaguely understood, even from an economic standpoint, their preservation would call forth the most watchful attention of government
— John Muir
In The Mountains of California (1894), 198.
Science quotes on:  |  Action (57)  |  Attention (37)  |  Call (11)  |  Cause (122)  |  Consideration (38)  |  Destruction (52)  |  Economy (25)  |  Fate (16)  |  Forest (54)  |  Government (50)  |  Headway (2)  |  Importance (106)  |  King (11)  |  Man (258)  |  Natural (48)  |  Preservation (14)  |  Rapid (3)  |  Standpoint (3)  |  Understanding (231)  |  Unfortunately (5)  |  Vagueness (8)  |  Waste (31)  |  Watch (16)  |  Wood (16)

Indians walk softly and hurt the landscape hardly more than the birds and squirrels, and their brush and bark huts last hardly longer than those of wood rats, while their more enduring monuments, excepting those wrought on the forests by the fires they made to improve their hunting grounds, vanish in a few centuries.
— John Muir
In My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), 73. Based on Muir's original journals and sketches of his 1869 stay in the Sierra.
Science quotes on:  |  Bark (3)  |  Bird (57)  |  Brush (3)  |  Century (38)  |  Endurance (4)  |  Fire (59)  |  Forest (54)  |  Hunt (5)  |  Hurt (6)  |  Improvement (36)  |  Indian (7)  |  Landscape (14)  |  Last (13)  |  Monument (13)  |  Rat (10)  |  Squirrel (4)  |  Vanishing (5)  |  Walk (24)

It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these western woods ... Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time—and long before that—God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools.
— John Muir
In 'The American Forests', Atlantic Monthly (Aug 1897), Vol. 80, 157.
Science quotes on:  |  Avalanche (3)  |  Care (37)  |  Century (38)  |  Disease (170)  |  Drought (6)  |  Flood (16)  |  Save (13)  |  Tempest (3)  |  Thousand (32)  |  Tree (88)  |  Western (5)  |  Wonderful (9)  |  Wood (16)  |  Year (69)

John Muir, Earth-planet, Universe.
— John Muir
Name and address, as inscribed on the inside cover of the notebook Muir recording his Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (Sep 1867). In John Muir and William Frederick Badι (Ed.), A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), ix.
Science quotes on:  |  Address (3)  |  Earth (250)  |  Notebook (3)  |  Universe (291)

One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature—inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe.
— John Muir
In My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), 325. Based on Muir's original journals and sketches of his 1869 stay in the Sierra.
Science quotes on:  |  Abundance (10)  |  Beauty (88)  |  Carbon Cycle (3)  |  Constancy (4)  |  Cycle (12)  |  Death (183)  |  Enormous (16)  |  Eternity (22)  |  Exultation (4)  |  Fertility (8)  |  Flow (14)  |  Infinite (39)  |  Learning (130)  |  Material (60)  |  Mind (272)  |  Nature (534)  |  Operation (53)  |  Particle (45)  |  Rejoice (5)  |  Reminder (3)  |  Universe (291)  |  Use (54)  |  Waste (31)  |  Wealth (29)  |  Worn (3)

The forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God; for they were the best he ever planted.
— John Muir
Opening sentence in magazine article, 'The American Forests', The Atlantic (Aug 1897), 80, No. 478, 145.
Science quotes on:  |  America (41)  |  Best (42)  |  Delight (22)  |  Forest (54)  |  God (234)  |  Great (62)

We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our flesh-and-bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams and rocks, in the waves of the sun,—a part of all nature, neither old nor young, sick nor well, but immortal.‎
— John Muir
In My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), 20. Based on Muir's original journals and sketches of his 1869 stay in the Sierra.
Science quotes on:  |  Air (84)  |  Beauty (88)  |  Bone (26)  |  Cell (90)  |  Enthusiasm (20)  |  Fill (13)  |  Flesh (10)  |  Glass (19)  |  Immortality (2)  |  Inseparable (3)  |  Mountain (66)  |  Nature (534)  |  Nerve (53)  |  Pore (5)  |  Quiver (2)  |  Rock (54)  |  Sickness (15)  |  Stream (10)  |  Sun (115)  |  Tabernacle (2)  |  Thrill (8)  |  Transparent (3)  |  Tree (88)  |  Wave (32)  |  Wellness (2)

When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything else in the universe ... The whole wilderness is unity and interrelation, is alive and familiar, full of humanity. The very stones seem talkative, sympathetic, brotherly.
— John Muir
In My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), 211 and 319. Based on Muir's original journals and sketches of his 1869 stay in the Sierra.
Science quotes on:  |  Alive (12)  |  Brother (7)  |  Everything (38)  |  Familiar (5)  |  Hitch (2)  |  Humanity (46)  |  Interrelation (2)  |  Pick (6)  |  Stone (20)  |  Sympathy (2)  |  Talk (21)  |  Unity (16)  |  Universe (291)  |  Wilderness (11)


See also:
  • todayinsci icon 21 Apr - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Muir's birth.
  • todayinsci icon Muir of the Mountains - Reminiscences of John Muir by Alexander McAdie in Sierra Club Bulletin (Jan 1916).
  • book icon John Muir: The Eight Wilderness Discovery Books, by John Muir. - book suggestion.
  • booklist icon Booklist for John Muir.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 20 -
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