John Burroughs earned his place in the Ecology Hall of Fame with a million and a half copies of his twenty three volumes of essays extolling nature and encouraging people to experience the natural world. While he wrote for adults, teachers found his work both challenging and interesting to students. Eleven schools were named for him; some still in operation. Known as the Hudson River naturalist and the father of the American nature essay, Burroughs became one of the most popular and respected authors of his time.
At his rustic cabin, Slabsides, not far from the Hudson that he built with his son in 1895, Burroughs entertained many famous visitors in his later years. Theodore Roosevelt, Walt Whitman, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison came. Fellow Ecology Hall of Famer, John Muir, was a contemporary and friend
Growing up on a farm in the Catskill Mountains, Burroughs absorbed much of the nature and country life that would fill his essays in later life. As a clerk in the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War, he filled idle hours with writing about the outdoors he loved. This became his first book, Wake-Robin. Returning to the Hudson River Valley in 1873, he began fruit farming and continued to write, publishing a new book about every two years.
In 1911, Burroughs refurbished an old farmhouse which he called Woodchuck Lodge near his birthplace. There he continued to write and spent his summers until his death. Today, the John Burroughs Association honors his memory with the annual awarding of the John Burroughs Medal to an author of a book length nature essay, and offers an open house and tours at Slabsides at West Park on the third Saturday in May and the first Saturday in October.
Photo of Burroughs, negative 2A2424, courtesy of the Department of Library Services, American Museum of Natural History.